Celebrities With Chronic Illnesses
They may be beautiful, rich and famous, but celebrities are human too, and that means they’re just as prone to getting sick as the rest of us.
And just like us, some celebs even live with chronic conditions that can take a toll on their day-to-day lives.
So, in addition to spa treatments and relaxing getaways, celebrities also take time out of their busy schedules to be poked and prodded by doctors. And while their assistants may pick up their prescriptions, they still need to make sure to take their meds.
Though being diagnosed with a condition is always unfortunate, a celebrity’s illness can sometimes offer a silver lining to others with the condition by helping to raise awareness of the disease.
Take, for example, Angelina Jolie’s 2013 announcement in The New York Times that she had undergone a double mastectomy after learning that she carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, which increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Researchers dubbed the increase in awareness of the role of genetics in breast cancer “The Angelina Effect.“
Here are 10 celebrities with chronic illnesses and how they live with them.
Celebrities Who’ve Been Diagnosed With Parkinson’s Disease
After getting a life-changing Parkinsons disease diagnosis, it can be comforting to find out who else has the same diagnosis. While its important to have a friend, family member or acquaintance to talk to in person who knows exactly what youre going through. Knowing one of your favorite public figures is experiencing similar symptoms as you can also help you feel less alone. These famous folks have spoken out about their condition, bringing awareness and visibility to conditions the general population might not know much about, if anything at all.
Parkinsons disease is a chronic, progressive neurological condition caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls movement. As a result, the nerve cells cannot produce dopamine, a chemical that helps coordinate movement. Hallmark symptoms include shaking in limbs when the limbs are at rest slowness of movement, where you cannot move your body as fast as you would like and rigidity, or stiffness in the body. Parkinsons also causes a number of symptoms unrelated to movement, including digestive issues, loss of smell, chronic pain, depression and blood pressure issues.
Parkinsons Disease Is A Progressive Disorder
Parkinsons Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects movement and, in some cases, cognition. Individuals with PD may have a slightly shorter life span compared to healthy individuals of the same age group. According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsons Research, patients usually begin developing Parkinsons symptoms around age 60 and many live between 10 and 20 years after being diagnosed. However, a patients age and general health status at onset factor into the accuracy of this estimate. Age is the greatest risk factor for this condition, but young-onset Parkinsons disease, which affects people before age 50, accounts for between 10 and 20 percent of PD cases.
While there is no cure for Parkinsons disease, many patients are only mildly affected and need no treatment for several years after their initial diagnosis. However, PD is both chronic, meaning it persists over a long period of time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time. This progression occurs more quickly in some people than in others.
Pharmaceuticals and surgical interventions can help manage some of the symptoms, like bradykinesia , rigidity or tremor , but not much can be done to slow the overall progression of the disease. Over time, shaking, which affects most PD patients, may begin to interfere with activities of daily living and ones quality of life.
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Myth : Parkinsons Research Is Stalled
Fact: It may feel as though theres nothing dramatic going on in the Parkinsons disease field, but there are several recent and very exciting breakthroughs regarding our understanding of the underlying pathology and disease mechanism. This will translate into actual clinical results in the next few years.
Alan Alda: Taking Action Keeping Active
The award-winning M*A*S*H actor broke the news of his Parkinsons diagnosis during an appearance on the CBS This Morning TV news show in July 2018 and hes found that exercise helps him stay positive. You can hold back the progress if you do a lot of specific exercises, so I do a lot of crazy things, he told Today in 2019. For this actor, these crazy things reportedly include boxing, juggling, tennis, swimming, marching, and biking.
Confirming the news of his diagnosis on Twitter, Alda remained optimistic. I decided to let people know I have Parkinsons to encourage others to take action, he wrote. My life is full. I act, I give talks, I do my podcast, which I love. If you get a diagnosis, keep moving!
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Janet Reno: Public Service With Parkinson’s
The first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general, from 1993 to 2001, Janet Reno was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1995, just two years after she was nominated to the cabinet position. She was 55 at the time. “Well, my hand was shaking this summer, and I thought it would go away. I thought it was maybe you all picking on me. But it didn’t go away, and so I went and had it checked out,”Reno said during a press conference at the time.
Reno took medication to bring her symptoms under control, and although her Parkinson’s advanced, she was able to guest star as herself in a 2013 episode of The Simpsons, presiding in a trial in which Bart Simpson was the defendant.
Reno died in November 2016 at age 78.
Women And Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease affects an estimated 10 million men and women worldwide. Women have been shown to have a lower risk of developing PD, and research suggests that there are differences in the way that men and women experience Parkinsons. Studies indicate that women diagnosed with PD report different symptoms, more often report side effects and changes in their symptoms throughout the day and receive lower quality healthcare than men.
What explains these differences? Based on the evidence so far, researchers can make some educated guesses. Some differences may have to do with biologythe way mens and womens bodies react to the disease or to therapies. Others may be due to lack of access to healthcare or to unintended differences in the way women are treated for PD compared to men.
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As A Black Woman With Young
It sounded like a script for a dramatic series: A beautiful young woman in her prime is diagnosed with a devastating disease that upends her very existence. It was a role that actress and dancer Victoria Dillard would normally jump at the chance to portray. Except in this case, it wasn’t an offer to star in a series or movie. It was Dillard’s real life.
COURTESY: VICTORIA DILLARD
The First Symptom
About six months after giving birth to her second child in 2006, Dillard, then 36, noticed a in her left hand. The tremor worsened to the point where she couldn’t brush her teeth or sign her name. “I felt like my brain was disconnected from my movements,” she recalls. She saw a neurologist, who diagnosed her with after a full neurologic examination and clinical observation. She remembers feeling oddly calm and taking notes as she listened to the diagnosis. “I didn’t panic, but I wrote as though I were in a fog,” she recalls.
Dillard says she has no family history of the disease, but she became familiar with the condition while playing Janelle Cooper on the TV show Spin City with Michael J. Fox. She remembers the day Fox sat down with the cast and crew to share his diagnosis and his decision to leave the show. “I was there when Michael was going through it,” she says. “Even though I had no close friends or family with this disease, I already knew what to expect because of him.”
Living with Parkinson’s
Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Celiac Disease
Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a former co-host of ABC’s “The View,” has had a decade-long struggle with celiac disease. Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine, preventing the body from absorbing food properly. The damage is due to a body’s overreaction to a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. More than 2 million people in the United States have the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. The talk show host tolerated the painful digestive condition for years, the New York Daily News reported in 2009. “No matter what I ate, I would soon be doubled over with cramps, awful indigestion, diarrhea â or all of the above simultaneously,” Hasselbeck wrote in her book “The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide” . Hasselbeck realized she had celiac disease after her symptoms disappeared when she was enduring a severely restricted diet while filming “Survivor: The Australian Outback” in 2001. She now follows a gluten-free diet, currently the only treatment for people with the disease.
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Celebrities With Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease is a common nervous system disorder. Parkinsons disease is a progressive disease. Symptoms, such as tremor and slowed movement, may be so mild they go largely unnoticed for a long period of time. Then, when the disorder worsens, they become more noticeable. These well-known actors, politicians, and public figures have been diagnosed with Parkinsons disease and spoken openly about their experiences.
Rondstadt’s Return To Public Life Was Rocky
By 2018, the artist was making semi-regular public appearances again with A Conversation with Linda, in which she discussed her career and her health between clips of concert footage despite, as she told the San Francisco Chronicle, the difficulties of talking. She also revealed that she was among the one in five Parkinson’s victims who did not respond to increased dopamine, and as such had stopped taking her regular medication.
The return to public life was not without its pitfalls: Appearing on stage at the MusiCares Person of the Year gala in February 2019 to honor her friend and onetime bandmate Dolly Parton, Ronstadt was knocked off balance by an exuberant Parton hug and grabbed for the podium, knocking the award to the floor and into pieces.
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Alan And David Osmond
Alan Osmond and many of his siblings became famous as members of the singing, dancing Osmond family. His son, David, is now carrying on the family name as a performer, including a turn on TV’s American Idol. They share something else, too: Both father and son have multiple sclerosis. They live by Alan’s motto: “I may have MS, but MS does not have me.”
Montel Williams: Multiple Sclerosis
p> In 1999, daytime talk show host Montel Williams went public with his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis , a debilitating disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. “My primary symptom is pain,” Williams told Oprah Winfrey on her talk show in 2009. “I’ve got pain from my shins to my feet, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and it’s been there for the last 10 years.” About 400,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. As with other autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the person’s healthy tissue. It is not known exactly what triggers the condition. Williams lives with the disease by paying close attention to three things: his diet, exercise and medication, he said on “Oprah.”
While there are no known ways to prevent MS, a 2016 meta-analysis found a link between coffee intake and a reduced risk of MS. The study showed an association, rather than proving cause and effect, but it’s possible that caffeine may have a protective effect on the brain and spinal cord, according to the researchers.
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Nick Jonas: Type 1 Diabetes
Nick Jonas is an American singer-songwriter, musician, actor and multi-instrumentalist, best known as one of the Jonas Brothers, a pop-rock band he formed with his brothers Joe and Kevin. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 13 and wears an insulin pump to manage his condition. Type 1 diabetes develops due to an autoimmune disorder that destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas, leaving the body unable to produce enough insulin to process the sugars we eat, requiring people with this disease to take injections of insulin.
Jack Osbourne: Multiple Sclerosis
Jack Joseph Osbourne is an English media personality. He is best known as a star of MTVs reality series The Osbournes, along with his father Ozzy, mother Sharon, and sister Kelly. At just 26 years old and only three weeks after his first child was born, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the bodys own immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control, vision, balance and sensation, as well as causing numbness.
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Celebrities Who Are Living With Ms
Before Kim Kardashian spoke out about psoriasis to her millions of followers, several had likely never heard of the condition. The same goes for Michael J. Fox and Parkinsons, a disease the actor first disclosed to the public more than 20 years ago. And despite a number of celebrities with MS being open about their diagnosis, many people still dont know exactly what multiple sclerosis isor how many people have it.
MS is a disease in which the bodys immune system attacks the nervous system. In the process, it damages nerve fibers and the fatty substance that surrounds them. The damage causes scar tissue to develop and produces symptoms including fatigue, trouble walking, numbness, and vision problems.
These symptoms are unpredictable, and they can develop in unpredictable ways. In some people, they can be mild, while in others, they can be more severe. In patients with primary progressive MS, one of four types of MS, symptoms can worsen over time. For those with relapsing-remitting MS, the most common kind, symptoms come and go.
Myth : Parkinsons Disease Is Fatal
Fact: Although a diagnosis of Parkinsons is devastating, it is not as some people may still believe a death sentence. Parkinsons disease is not a direct killer, like stroke or heart attack. That said, much depends on the quality of your care, both from your medical team and yourself.
As the disease progresses, you may become more vulnerable to falls, which can be dangerous. Thats why exercise and physical therapy are so important.
Infection is another problem. In later stages of Parkinsons, people often miss those signals and may not notice somethings up until its too late. That can be, literally, a killer so be sure to stay up to date with checkups.
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Myth : Deep Brain Stimulation Is Experimental Therapy
Fact: Deep brain stimulation, or DBS, is a procedure in which doctors place electrodes in the brain at the point when medications are less effective in masking motor symptoms, such as tremor, stiffness and slowness of movement.
While it may sound frightening and futuristic, its been around and successfully used for decades. DBS works very similarly to a pacemaker, except the wire is in the brain, not in the heart. Its been a standard procedure for the past two decades.
She Was Diagnosed With Parkinson’s Disease A Decade After Her Symptoms Began
Meanwhile, the physical problems worsened. Along with experiencing debilitating back pain, Ronstadt found herself struggling to do mundane tasks like brushing her teeth.
Dealing with the loss of touring revenue, Ronstadt accepted an offer from Simon & Schuster to write a memoir, and she diligently set herself to the task, typing out her life story even as her fingers refused to fully cooperate. The shaky hands caught a friend’s attention, and Ronstadt finally agreed to see a neurologist.
In December 2012, as she was finishing her book, Ronstadt received bombshell news: She had Parkinson’s disease.
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Ronstadt Knows There Is ‘nothing’ She Can Do About Her Disease But Remains Positive
Still, the septuagenarian soldiers on. Shortly after the MusiCares gala, she ventured with Browne to Mexico as part of a cultural arts program that teaches music and dance to children. In September 2019, she returned to the spotlight for the release of the documentary she signed up for years ago, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, gamely discussing the loss of her physical acumen and unforgettable singing voice.
“It’s like not having a leg or an arm, but there’s nothing I can do about it,”she told People, adding the spark of optimism that has helped push her forward through tough times. “In my mind in my imagination I can still sing.”
Michael J Fox: Parkinsons Disease
Michael J. Fox is a Canadian American actor, author, producer, activist and voice-over artist. He was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease in 1991, and disclosed his condition to the public in 1999. He semi-retired from acting in 2000 as the symptoms of his disease became more severe. Most people arent diagnosed with this debilitating disease until their 50s. Parkinsons is a disorder of the brain that progressively worsens and causes the characteristic tremors, difficulty walking and effects on movement and coordination.
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Myth : Aside From Medication There Isnt Much You Can Do
Fact: This it is what it is theres nothing I can do to help myself myth is counterproductive. There is a lot you can do chiefly, keeping as active as you can. A recent study found that patients with Parkinsons who took part in weekly, hourlong exercise sessions were able to do more in their daily lives than those who did not.