It's no accident that Selena Gomez and Francia Raisa became friends.
In part two of Today's exclusive interview with Gomez and Raisa, they told Savannah Guthrie that their shared faith in God is what initially brought them together—and it's also what got them through one of the toughest moments of their lives. Over the summer, as Gomez's battle with lupus worsened and her kidneys started failing, doctors told her she needed a new kidney.
"I had arthritis. My kidneys were shutting down. My mentality was just to keep going," Gomez said Monday. Weeks away from dialysis, Gomez broke down and shared the news with Raisa, her roommate. "One day she came home, and she was emotional. I hadn't asked anything. I knew that she hadn't been feeling well," Raisa said. "She couldn't open a water bottle one day and she chucked it and just started crying." Finding a donor could take between seven and 10 years, doctor said. "It just vomited out of me," Raisa said. "I was like, 'Of course I'll get tested.'"
Soon after, she got her blood and urine tested and underwent a full physical and psychological evaluation. She was a match, but there would be risks involved with the surgery—for both of them. "She lived with me in this interesting time where my kidneys were just done. That was it and I didn't want to ask a single person in my life," Gomez said. "The thought of asking somebody to do that was really difficult for me. And she volunteered and did it...The fact that she was a match, I mean, that's unbelievable." Raisa had her surgery first, followed by Gomez.
In spite of the risks, Raisa decided to go forward with the life-saving operation. "If I didn't have my relationship with God, I don't think I would've been able to," she said. Gomez added, "What I believe is that it does happen for a reason. I think a huge part of my discernment and my honesty and my truth has been because I've had a relationship with God." And while it was a life or death situation, Gomez said Tuesday, "I don't want people to think it's a sad thing that I went through this with Francia, or with anything in my life, because at the end of the day, I think all the stuff I went through made me and defined everything that I am right now. I think it's a really beautiful thing, and I have to remind myself of that. It's not a negative experience."
That's not to say everything went smoothly.
Complications arose soon after the initial surgery, as the singer's new kidney turned around inside her body. "I was freaking out. It was a six-hour surgery that they had to do on me, and the normal kidney process is actually two hours. Apparently one of the arteries had flipped," she recalled. "I'm very thankful that there are people who know what to do in that situation."
Diagnosed with lupus in 2015, Gomez said Tuesday that she often pushed herself too hard, career-wise. "I don't think I made the right decisions, because I didn't accept it. It was extremely selfish and at the same time really, really just unnecessary," she said. "I'm not really proud of that." Guthrie suggested Gomez was being hard on herself, to which the singer replied, "That would be easier if I just accepted it, but I am definitely the hardest person on myself, for sure."
Eventually, Gomez's health problems became impossible to ignore.
"I went away to a facility. I took some time off. I need to get my mind right and be healthy," said Gomez, who didn't see Raisa for six months. "I removed myself from everyone in my life." Their continued friendship afterward is a testament to the fact "that you have people in your life that can understand where you are, not judge you for it, not make you feel bad for it," she said. And, according to Raisa, "It was a huge lesson of friendship for me and trust, because it's easy to feel offended or want to be there. It's just...they need to go through their own thing."
Gomez didn't blame fame for making matters worse. In fact, she told Guthrie, "I don't think I ever accepted the position I had. It was me almost feeling guilty about fame, because people could see anyone in my position and say, 'Wow, they've got it all figured out. They've got everything. They get to live this cool life.'" In reality, she said, fame isn't all it's cracked up to be. "You're isolated. You're being looked at. You're being judged. I'm always trying to be nice," she said. "I want to be great. That's genuinely who I am, deep down. But it just seemed pointless."
The singer revealed in September that she and Raisa were recovering from the surgery, and on Monday, Gomez credited the actress for saving her life. "Because she did. That's it," she said. "I guess I got to the point where it was really kind of life or death." As soon as she got the kidney transplant, she said, "My arthritis went away. My lupus—there's about a 3 to 5 percent chance it'll ever come back. My blood pressure is better. My energy, my life has been better." Gomez hopes their story will help others who are on on similar journeys. "I just hope that this inspires people to feel good," the pop star said, "to know that there is really good people in the world."
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