If you have picked up an issue of US Magazine (really, any tabloid will do), well, ever, you know that Celebrities Are Just Like Us! They go grocery shopping in cut-off denim shorts without brushing their hair, sometimes they don’t wear makeup, and they even go to the gym, emerging sweaty and grimy a few hours later (unless, of course, they are Sigourney Weaver, who just wakes up perfect. See That time I let Sigourney Weaver tell me what to do, July 30).
Another thing that celebrities have in common with us average folk? They too can have big bad scary chronic illnesses that may or may not impact their celebrity lifestyles. Some capitalize on a health focus (I am looking at YOU, Montel Williams, PS. My HealthMaster Blender is sitting in the basement along with my other TV infomercial purchases. It’s a nifty super-blender, but it makes it sound like a helicopter is landing on my house. Which is annoying at the least and headache inducing at the worst, so I don’t use it much. Ok, ever). Others try to hide it or deny it. And some just go about their business as usual, trying to figure out how to live day by day, the same way any other Chronic does.
Here’s a little list of some of my favorite Celebrity Chronics:
Montel Williams: As a kid, when I was home sick, I loved watching the Montel Williams show. Yes, I learned to crochet so that my mind wouldn’t be poisoned by the thematic elements in soap operas (See The Crafty Chronic (1) August 4), but I somehow managed to squeeze in an episode of Montel every now and again. He seems like a really genuine guy. Montel announced his Multiple Sclerosis (MS) diagnosis in 1999, and went on to sell a successful line of blenders, as well as become a best-selling author. When I finally had my official POTS diagnosis, Montel’s books “Living Well” and “Living Well Emotionally” were two that got me started on a path to better wellness, with the only side effect being an addiction to self-help books.
Jack Osbourne: Another MS Chronic, Jack Osbourne is the son of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. A nerdy-sort of kid way back when the Osbournes revolutionized reality television with The Osbournes on MTV (there I go dating myself again…my tween readers must think I am ANCIENT), Jack blossomed into a charming adult with killer dance moves on Dancing with the Stars. His finale performance with Cheryl Burke is still one of my favorites, and I loved tuning in to watch him do something so far out of his comfort zone, all the while dealing with his relatively new diagnosis.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck: I’m going to say upfront that I mostly do not agree with pretty much anything this opinionated lady had to say as a co-host on The View. However, I will forever be grateful to her for writing “The G-Free Diet” about how to live with celiac disease, because it pretty much saved my life. I had lost more than 20lb in less than a month and the doctors were scratching their heads. Everything I ate made me sick. I heard Elisabeth talking about her celiac diagnosis on The View, read her book, put in to practice all I learned, and very soon afterwards, my digestive health got SO MUCH BETTER. So props to you, Ms. Hasselbeck. Thanks for sharing your Chronic story so that I could be helped. We’ll just agree to disagree about <EverythingElse>.
Venus Williams: As a tiny tennis player with dreams/delusions of grandeur, I loved the Williams sisters. They made it exciting to watch tennis (which, let’s face it, was pretty boring pre-Venus&Serena), and I wanted to be as strong and powerful as they were. My tennis career never went further than playing my own sister at the park, and we never got much better than celebrating the fact that we didn’t hit a fly ball over the fence (this was a big accomplishment for us- we had the power, perhaps, but ZERO control), but I always paid attention when the Williams sisters were mentioned in the news. Venus was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome recently, and after taking some time to figure out how to be Chronic Venus Williams 2.0, came back and continues to be a tennis sensation.
Bret Michaels: Rockstar, king of poor decisions including that VH1 reality show Rock of Love (which I only watched maybe one or two or six episodes of…), Chronic? Yep! Bret Michaels survived a mini-stroke caused by a hole in his heart in 2010. Coincidentally, I happened to have a cardiac catheterization right about the same time he did for a similar hole-y heart problem. Mine wasn’t fixable, per se, as it was an abnormality instead of a full-on hole, but Bret got his fixed and picked up right where he left off- rocking out and spreading rock star germs to groupies in his free time.
Shannen Dougherty: Not to be crass, but everybody poops. The sooner we all get over that, the sooner Crohn’s disease sufferers like Shannen Dougherty can get on with their day with less embarrassment. Seriously, people get over it. Apparently Shannen was afraid to share her diagnosis with the world because “it isn’t sexy” to have to go to the bathroom all the time, and this chick makes her living off of being the sexy bad girl. Frankly, if Brenda Walsh needs a time out from scheming to make a visit to the ladies’, I don’t mind as long as she comes back ready as ever to break some hearts.
Kristen Johnson: Another favorite when I was living it up on the couch in elementary school? 3rd Rock from the Sun. When I wasn’t drooling over a teenaged Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I was cracking up at Kristen Johnson’s loud, over the top, alien-chic character. This lady made me laugh so hard and I loved it. She has had a number of Chronic issues sideline her career in the years since. First, a burst ulcer led to the removal of part of her stomach, and then more recently, a rare form of Lupus took over her body and her life. Never one to give up, Kristen is doing much better with the help of a specialist, and is doing her best to raise awareness of her condition by looking super-fab in People magazine.
I could keep going- Toni Braxton and Nick Cannon also have Lupus, and Lady Gaga is rumored to as well; Kim Kardashian apparently has psoriasis; Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s Disease; Howie Mandel has OCD; Catherine Zeta-Jones has Bipolar II disorder; Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Endometriosis…There seems to be no end to famous Chronics.
I’m a big fan of the phrase “If you can see it, you can be it”—because I feel like it’s so true. Celebrity Chronics show us, most importantly, that life goes on, even after a Chronic diagnosis. You can still make your dreams come true and be adored by millions all while having some serious *stuff* to deal with. On days where I feel like my Chronic status is getting in the way of, well, pretty much everything, it’s nice to have role models, or at the very least, some very public Chronics to look to. In the same way that I don’t feel so bad about what I look like when I go grocery shopping because Julia Roberts looks like this:
I feel just a tiny bit better knowing that a girl can have POTS and still compete to be America’s Next Top Model (Alexandra Agro, Cycle 20). And I feel strangely better about my own POTS when she too can’t handle standing for forever while Tyra Banks gets her critique on, and has to go lie down backstage because of tachycardia.
So there you have it, Chronics, further proof that those alien-beings we call Celebrities are Just Like Us!
*In light of the recent revelation that Robin Williams was newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease before his untimely death last week, I’d like to share the contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Call 1-800-273-TALK if you are in crisis and need help. You can also call 911 if you need immediate help. Being a Chronic is hard. Iamchronicallywell urges all fellow Chronics to get the help they need when they need it. There is nothing stronger or braver than reaching out. Love to you all ❤