We tend to think of celebrities as these perfect, invincible creatures that are basically an entirely different species than we are. Right? Well, truth is — and I’d hate to spoil this for you — celebrities are people, just like you and me. Of course, they might get certain privileges for being rich and famous, but life does not exclude certain people from the more negative aspects of like — and that includes serious, chronic illnesses.
For some reason, having health struggles is often seen as something that should be kept a secret — as if it is something we should be ashamed of. But with a little help from people in power who feel comfortable sharing their own truths about suffering from lifelong illnesses, we have found that this openness about what they’re going through can be incredibly inspiring and even help change the world. Some high-profile celebrities have divulged their stories on having a chronic illness and help to remind us that, at the end of the day, we’re all human and when it comes to sickness, there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
1. Nick Cannon
Nick Cannon made an attempt to downplay a serious time in his life in 2012, when he had blood clots in his lungs and an enlarged ventricle on his heart, both of which landed him in the hospital. Before these two, he had kidney failure — and revealed that he’d been living with lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease that has left him hospitalized several times.
The Wild n’ Out host stopped working as much since his diagnosis for the sake of his children and his health and has described what it’s like living with what he calles a “tough disease.” “I don’t necessarily look sick, but there are times when I wake up and I can’t move,” he’s said. Many don’t even know that the star is living with a severe illness due to his upbeat personality — but it’s inspiring to know that he’s managing it so well.
2. Avril Lavigne
The “Sk8r Boi” singer was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2014 and has since noted that she felt lightheaded and lethargic for quite some time before she saw a doctor about it. Avril continued to fight off the disease like the strong warrior that she is, and has opened up about what having this persistent sickness is like.
“I could barely eat, and when we went to the pool, I had to leave and go lie in bed… There were definitely times I couldn’t shower for a full week because I could barely stand. It felt like having all your life sucked out of you. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t move, I thought I was dying.” she said on the disease. While that sounds terrifying, it makes it all the more amazing that she’s still able to put out music and live a relatively normal life.
3. Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox has been living with Parkinson’s, a disease of the nervous system that affects movement and more. After being diagnosed in 1991, he didn’t share that information with the world until 1998. At that point, The Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research was founded two years later, and since has become biggest Parkinson’s research non-profit in the world.
Besides raising funds for research for the disease, he continues to fight the stigma to educate people.
4. Frankie Muniz
Frankie Muniz has landed in the middle once again, but this time in the middle of a medical mess of mini-strokes. In 2013, he tweeted that he suffered a second mini-stroke, about one year after he suffered his first one. Muniz blames the stroke on working too long and too hard, as he lives a healthy, sober life, and has said that these are reminders to relax and take a day off.
“I felt like I was getting stabbed in the head – the worst headache you could ever think of. I couldn’t see anything” the child actor said on his experience.
5. Sarah Hyland
This Modern Family actress has had to shut down the haters several times with eloquence after being shamed on her weight — specifically her skinny appearance. Previously, she’d opened up about her kidney dysplasia, and how her father donated his kidney to her in 2012.
“‘Eat a burger,’ ‘your head is bigger than your body and that’s disgusting…And you’re right!…No one’s head should be bigger than their body but considering I’ve basically been on bed rest for the past few months, I’ve lost a lot of muscle mass. My circumstances have put me in a place where I’m not in control of what my body looks like. So I strive to be as healthy as possible, as everyone should.” she said about her health conditions affecting the way she looks.
6. Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin is another sufferer from Lyme disease, exclaiming that he got symptoms for five summers in a row, but the first time was the absolute worst:
“The first time was the worst of all, and I really thought this is it, I’m not going to live. I was alone, I wasn’t married at the time, I was divorced from my first wife. I was lying in bed saying, ‘I’m going to die of Lyme disease,’… ‘I hope someone finds me and I’m not here for too long.’” he revealed. That’s so scary!
7. Bret Michaels
Known for his reality television appearances and rock music, Bret’s also had his fair share of health problems. Doctors found a hole in his heart that was the reason behind his transient ischemic attack, which is also called a warning stroke. Before that, he had a gigantic brain hemorrhage, but doctors have said that they don’t believe the two were related.
However, he also lives with type 1 Diabetes which has been the cause of many other medical emergencies. He told VeryWell, “I fought so hard to get on Apprentice and then fought even harder to win it, to raise awareness because [Diabetes] is such a complicated disease whether you are type 1 or type 2. I think it helps a lot of people who feel very overwhelmed, not necessarily just depressed, but overwhelmed. I’m just here to show people that I’ve been through a really radical, crazy life and have still managed to manage my diabetes.”
8. Toni Braxton
Toni Braxton is another celeb that suffers from lupus. She has said the most difficult part of living with the disease is performing and having to act like nothing is wrong, but despite how challenging it can be, she has never canceled a show because of it. She said the following on lupus:
“Some days I can’t balance it all. I just have to lay in bed. Pretty much when you have lupus you feel like you have the flu every day. But some days you get through it. But for me, if I’m not feeling well, I tend to tell my kids, ‘Oh mommy’s just going to relax in bed today. I kind of take it easy.”
9. Venus Williams
Venus Williams, tennis superstar and superhuman, suffers from a lesser-known disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome, which causes terrible joint pain, swelling, numbness, fatigue, and muscle inflammation. She has said that she had these symptoms long before she was diagnosed, and it has affected her in big ways, like forcing her to drop out of the U.S. Open in 2011. Venus is a strong woman, though, and didn’t let this setback keep her from tennis.
“Sjogren’s is something you live with your whole life. The good news for me is now I know what’s happening after spending years not knowing… I feel like I can get better and move on.” she said on the lifelong illness.
10. Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne is not only a well-known rapper and one face behind Young Money Entertainment, but also someone who quietly battles with his health. In 2012, he made an emergency landing on his private plane because he had a seizure, and he has had several public seizures since then, including one right before he went on stage at a concert in Las Vegas. He later shared that he has epilepsy, which causes frequent seizures that can come and attack at any time without warning.
He’s described the brain disorder saying, “No warning, no nothing, I don’t feel sick. I get headaches real bad.” He also phoned into Power 106 to speak more on the condition. “This isn’t my first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh seizure. I’ve had a bunch of seizures, y’all just never hear about them. But this time it got real bad ’cause I had three of them in a row and on the third one, my heart rate went down to like 30 percent. Basically, I could’ve died, so that is why it was so serious.” We’re just happy he’s okay!
11. Miley Cyrus
MiCy usually likes to keep up a carefree demeanor, which made everyone all the more surprised when she revealed she had a heart condition. While it’s not life-threatening, the singer/actress has an irregular heart rhythm. There have been rumors that it could affect her in the long run if she keeps up with her partying habits — even giving her a stroke, but for now it’s just something she has to be aware of.
”The type of tachycardia I have isn’t dangerous. It won’t hurt me, but it does bother me. There is never a time onstage when I’m not thinking about my heart,” she wrote in her autobiography, Miles to Go.
12. Missy Elliot
Hip hop mogul Missy Elliot has accomplished a lot in her lifetime, with five platinum albums and one double platinum album, on top of selling over 30 million records in the U.S. alone. She also lost a lot of weight back in 2008, which gave her Graves’ disease, a disorder of the immune system that affects the thyroid. Because of the symptoms that come with the disease including dizziness, hair loss, faster heartbeat, and lumps in her throat, she was forced to take a break from the world of music. Regardless of that, though, the legend continues to prevail and now is off medication, maintaining her condition through a healthy lifestyle. That’s amazing.
13. Nick Jonas
1/3 of The Jonas Brothers has been navigating superstardom while also living with type 1 diabetes. He told Entertainment Tonight, “When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t really know a lot about the disease. So I was actually thinking I was going to die.” However, he quickly learned to manage — though he did say it was a “day-to-day learning experience” of how to best take care of himself and keep the symptoms of his diabetes in check.
14. Halle Berry
Halle Berry, actress and mother of two, also has had type 1 diabetes for most of her life. While it can be harmful if untreated, she takes extra precautions to make sure that she is living a healthy life, eating a clean diet and exercising regularly. Besides her own well-being, Berry makes sure her health is top-notch for the sake of her children, Maceo and Nahla.
As she said, “Taking care of my health and keeping my weight a certain (level) is really very much a part of taking care of myself and being healthy and because I’m a mum now, I wouldn’t take risks like that.”
15. Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman might be be a talented actor and, well, God, to some people (and in the movie Bruce Almighty), but he has to deal with sicknesses like the rest of us. His main culprit? Fibromyalgia, a disease that causes severe muscle tenderness, and causes him to have excruciating pain.
He winced during an interview, and exclaimed it was the fibromyalgia, saying it went “Up and down the arm. That’s where it gets so bad. Excruciating.” He can’t drive a stick shift like he used to back in the day, nor can he sail. Morgan still manages to do other things he loves, though, like golfing… which he does one-handed. Impressive.
16. Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anderson, our favorite blonde bombshell of Baywatch, suffered from Hepatitis C for 16 years before a cure was released, and she and her ex-husband Tommy Lee both beat it for good in 2015. Anderson contracted the disease from Lee who not only knew he had the condition and didn’t tell her — but allowed a tattooer to use the same needle for both of them.
“Twenty years ago they told me I would die in 10 years… I’ve been too busy. I think it really hasn’t even hit me yet, but it’s exciting because now I get 20 years back on my life,” she said on being finally cured.
17. Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks, actor, writer, director, producer, proud feminist, and all-around great guy, has had diabetes since he was 36. Hanks takes total responsibility for the disease, basically saying that he ignored the doctors and continued to eat what he wanted and not work out, essentially reminding us that he is a human being and did what many of us would do. He had the following to say about how he got it:
“I’m part of the lazy American generation that has blindly kept dancing through the party and now finds ourselves with a malady. I was heavy. You’ve seen me in movies, you know what I looked like. I was a total idiot.”
18. Lena Dunham
This Girls star may be controversial — but many don’t know that she is actually living with endometriosis — which is a disorder that effects many women. Because of this, she suffers from chronic exhaustion, as well as irregular and painful periods. After living with this for several years and trying holistic approaches to solve the problems, she recently had her fifth surgery to eliminate the issue — and it worked!
19. Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez shared a heartfelt photo of her and fellow actress and friend Francia Raisa in hospital gowns recently, after Francia graciously donated her kidney to the platinum-record pop singer. Sel captioned the photo with her gratitude to her friend for that incredible gift, and explained that her lupus caused her to need the transplant, thus explaining her frequent disappearances from the spotlight.
Lupus, as the “Fetish” singer put it, has a cloud of confusion surrounding it, and is often misunderstood. But, the disease can cause fatal health problems like anemia, a heart attack, or in this case, kidney failure. Celebrities have wished her well, and we credit SelGo for sharing this with the world, and aiding in educating people on lupus in her interviews.
20. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga was recently hospitalized in Brazil, and was suffering from so much physical pain, she had to withdraw from her Rock in Rio performance. The pop queen took to Twitter to disclose her condition, which before was being called chronic pain, sharing that she, too, suffers from fibromyalgia, and explained that more of her suffering with this medical condition would be included in her documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, which will debut on Netflix on September 22.
She continued in the tweet that she hopes her being public about this will spark a discussion and raise awareness of fibromyalgia. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta even gave advice for others who also live with the condition and is helping to create a community of support. Hope you feel better soon, Mother Monster!