As 2013 draws to a close, and with it the listing of news makers that died this past year, I wondered about celebrities living with chronic conditions and how it may be impacting their careers.
For actress, Kathleen Turner, who is living with serious rheumatoid arthritis, the rumors about her drinking too much were thought to be a better option as people in show business hire drunks all the time, but not people who are sick. Like many with chronic conditions, they not only fear loosing work and doing the things they love, but they also are in the public eye, which can be a blessing as well as a curse.
It is interesting to read how various people deal with their respective conditions. Overwhelmingly they identify two key changes they've made to improve their health-diet and exercise. Religion, spiritual belief, humor, meditation and other activities are also frequently mentioned. Some have chosen to become involved in their condition specific organization and a number have developed websites to raise funds and awareness. For some, their diagnosis, combined with their celebrity status, is a compelling reason for them to disclose their health issue and to do something to improve not only their lives but others who are similarly affected. Many view the diagnosis ultimately as an important point in their lives, which helped them change for the better.
• Dan Aykroyd (Actor) Asperger’s syndrome. He was told he had Tourette as a 12 year old. Among his obsessions are ghosts and law enforcement. He is also a spiritualist and so no surprise, Ghostbusters III will start filming in 2014.
• Toni Braxton (Singer, actor): She has a variety of health issues including lupus and small vessel disease. Her youngest son was diagnosed with autism and Braxton is very involved with Autism Speaks.
• Cher (Singer, actor) Epstein-Barr Virus: She has had to put her career on hold several years, including a three period staring in 1992. However, it hasn’t kept her from having a number one hit in five different decades.
• Sinead O’Connor (singer) Fibromyalgia and bipoloar disorder
• Missy Elliot (Hip Hop artist) Graves’ Disease and hypertension: Has difficulty with driving and other everyday tasks but through treatment is back recording and writing. She believes that God had a plan for her by “keeping her out” of the business so she could come back with something new and different.
• Michael J Fox (Actor) Parkinson’s Disease: Diagnosed in his 30’s, he and Mohammad Ali are the most frequent faces associated with the disease. He continues to act and run the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’ Research.
• David Garrard (Quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars) Crohn’s Disease. Appears in TV commercials for “In the Zone for Crohn’s.”
• Tim Howard (Goalie for the US Soccer Team, Manchester United and now Everton) Tourette Syndrome: Diagnosed at 9, he has learned to manage his condition and is a patient advocate for those living with the condition.
• Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Lakers Basketball player) Chronic myeloid leukemia.
• Nick Jonas (Youngest member of the Jonas Brothers) Type 1 Diabetes: He is now a spokesperson for the Diabetes Research Institute
• Diane Keaton (Actor) Asthma
• Greg Louganis (Olympic Diving gold medalist) HIV/AIDS No longer competing, Louganis is an advocate for those who are gay and HIV+
• Thomas Menion (Mayor of Boston) Crohn’s Disease
• Jillian Michaels (The Biggest Loser trainer) Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Endometriosis
• Jack Osborne (Reality TV , son of Sharon and Ozzy Osborne) Multiple Sclerosis: Since his diagnosis, he has competed on “Dancing with the Stars,” and has established the website You Don’t Know Jack about MS.
• Prince (Singer) His eccentric personality developed as a cover up for epilepsy he’s had since childhood.
• Kathleen Turner (Actress): Rheumatoid arthritis . In 1992, after “Serial Mom,” I got very ill with rheumatoid arthritis. For several years, that was my primary concern—to battle that disease, to be able to keep moving. Nine operations and two titanium knees later —and missing many joints in my feet and other areas—I am moving and working very well..... When I was so ill, my confidence in myself was terribly shaken. I relied very much on my physical ability to be the actress and woman I thought of myself. I’ve been regaining that. But, it took a bad hit. I’m still learning. I like flirting. I’m working on it. Entertainment Inquirer “It’s important to me that people know they have options so they can get some relief from this debilitating disease,"
• Linda Ronstadt (Singer) Parkinson’s Disease
• Mathew Scheiner (musician Oberhofer, Tropic of Pisces, Mon Khmer) Hemophilia, Hepatitis C
• Seal (Singer) Discoid Lupus. The scars on his face are from the disease. Fans, curious about the scars, have learned about the disease.
• Patrick Spurgeon (Musician) End Stage Renal Disease
• Amy Tan (Author) Lyme Disease, which led to epilepsy. As noted in her on-line biography while not cured, her disease is medically managed, and her health, by her own new definition, is excellent. She now has a valid excuse why she cannot drive and must have her husband play chauffeur.
• Hugo Weaving (Actor): Diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 13. It didn’t stop him from becoming a major actor, starring in such films as “The Matrix” and “Lord of the Rings.”
• Montel Williams (TV personality) Multiple Sclerosis: I could spend the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself as the victim of a tragic fate. Or I could view my illness as a call to action -- an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of millions who suffer from MS and their loved ones. In 1999, I went public with my battle against MS. Although I was warned that this disclosure could harm my career, I couldn't remain silent. I have one of the biggest mouths on this planet, and I decided to keep using it until everyone everywhere knows about MS, what can be done to fight it, and a cure is found. Williams is now the head of the Montel Williams Foundation raising money for MS research.
• Williams sisters: (Tennis Pro) Besides all of the injuries from being a competitive athlete, both sisters have dealt with some form of chronic disease. Venus has Sjogren’s Disease and Selena has suffered from depression and a blood clot in her lung. Serena, at 32, the oldest woman ever, is ranked number one in the world and Venus ranks 47th.
• Alexis Wineman (Miss America) Autism: Her platform as Miss America, crowned June 2012, was “Normal is Just a Dryer Setting: Living with Autism.”