These Celebrities Were Diagnosed with Life Changing Illnesses
39. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an absolute NBA legend, was given some life-changing news back in 2008. He was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia. This… Trista - June 22, 2022
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an absolute NBA legend, was given some life-changing news back in 2008. He was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia. This is a slow and progressing type of blood cancer. What was his motivation throughout this diagnosis? It was all about staying alive. He treated it by being diligent in his doctors appointments, regular blood tests, and sticking to the prescribed medication. This type of blood cancer can be managed with the proper treatment, and Kareem believes that early detection and a healthy dose of positivity are key.
Winnie Harlow is known for her incredible poses and catwalk, but she’s also known for the unique feature of her skin. It’s caused by an autoimmune skin condition and is called vitiligo. This condition affects the most exposed areas of the body like the hands and face. There is little known about the cause of vitiligo and very few treatments or preventative measures. But, Winnie Harlow has decided to embrace her unique skin rather than treat it with phototherapy or topical corticosteroids to help restore pigment to the skin. It’s actually become an integral part of her success in her modeling career.
Sasha Pieterse, one of the stars of Pretty Little Liars, was left wondering what was happening to her body for nearly two years before figuring out what it was. She had put on 70-pounds and had no idea why this had happened. She went to numerous doctors and researched until finally being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, more commonly known as PCOS. It is ultimately a hormone imbalance that causes cysts on the ovaries. Sasha was relieved by the diagnosis as she finally understood why the sudden weight gain had happened to her. It can cause infertility, but luckily for Sasha, she is now a mom and dealing with her diagnosis.
Pete Davidson, the now-retired Saturday Night Live comedian, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when he was about 17. This condition causes the small and large intestines to become swollen and irritated. This caused him to have extreme stomach pain all day. There is no cure for Crohn’s, but there are fortunately ways to manage the symptoms. When you are an informed patient, you stand the best chance of living well with this condition. Pete has said that one of the things that help him is medical marijuana.
Toni Braxton was diagnosed with lupus in 2008. The Long As I Live singer struggled to explain to her young children at the time why she had to be in the hospital so much. They couldn’t process why her immune system was attacking her body’s healthy cells, which was making her sick. This condition can sometimes lead the patient to need a heart transplant, but luckily, that wasn’t the case for Toni. This diagnosis will be with her for the rest of her life. However, she decided not to be a victim and to listen to her body and what it needed.
Have you heard of ankylosing spondylitis? This is inflammatory arthritis that generally affects the spinal joints and can cause absolutely crippling back pain. It is the condition that Dan Reynolds, lead singer of Imagine Dragons, is battling. He was diagnosed in his early twenties and said he was living with the pain of an 8 or 9 out of 10. This singer’s blood pressure was incredibly high, and he was in intense pain. Eventually, Dan Reynolds started a treatment plan that used a biological drug that changed everything for him. He says this is a hidden disease that most people, not even doctors, know about.
Melanie Griffith, one of Hollywood’s most celebrated women, has shared her experience of being diagnosed with epilepsy. She was diagnosed with this neurological disorder after years of experiencing seizures and trying to get them under control. Apparently, her doctors kept putting off the epilepsy diagnosis even after having a string of intense episodes from immense stress. They finally did an EEG which helped to diagnose her. Since then, she has significantly improved and hasn’t experienced a seizure in four years. Her treatment was medication and a divorce.
Bono, the U2 singer, has a reason for wearing his iconic sunglasses. They aren’t just part of the rock-star image. It’s actually because of a medical condition he has been dealing with. Bono has dealt with glaucoma for 20 years. This is a build up of pressure that can end up damaging the optic nerve of the eye as well as making the eyes very sensitive to light. You can imagine being up on stage and being exposed to the spotlight for hours on end. He has since had excellent treatment for the condition and has alerted the public to his health status and that he will be absolutely fine.
Kristin Chenoweth, actress and singer, has been fighting a quiet and personal battle with Meniere’s disease. What is this disease? It is a disorder that ultimately affects the inner ear – not ideal for a singer. She says it’s a battle, and she’s happy to take it on and talk about it. One of the symptoms is ringing or fluttering in the ear and migraines. One of the main side effects Kristin Chenoweth experiences is vertigo. She says that sometimes she has just to wait for it to pass and lean on her friends and family for support.
Sarah Hyland, who played Hailey Dumphey in Modern Family, has a chronic kidney condition that often took her away from work to deal with her health. This celeb underwent a kidney transplant in 2012 and revealed she had kidney dysplasia. This means that her kidneys did not develop properly when she was still in the womb and sometimes formed painful cysts. This actress is now on medication to manage this Prednisone and says that it often makes her face swollen. However, since the drug saves her life, this celeb doesn’t mind it at all.
We have another celebrity who has discovered that they have epilepsy: rapper Lil Wayne. He has apparently been dealing with these epileptic seizures for a long time, but he’s never spoken about it. In face, Lil Wayne recently experienced a nasty bout of attacks, having three of them in a row, causing his heart rate to drop dramatically. He says that the stress, lack of rest, and overworking have caused this to happen. He’s now aware that this isn’t helping his health and hopefully will cut back and look after his body more going forward.
Singer Halsey has recently opened up about her health battles, which are related to her health as a woman. She opened up about her endometriosis diagnosis in an emotional tweet. This is a concerning prognosis as it can lead to excruciating periods and even go as far as causing fertility issues for women. She had been misdiagnosed over the years, with doctors thinking it was possibly PCOS. When she was finally diagnosed correctly, she felt a sense of bittersweet relief. While knowing what was happening with her body was good, it was also a scary moment to receive the news.
Frankie Muniz, one of our favorite childhood actors, had a number of concussions throughout his life caused by various activities and has since been in and out of the emergency room. He’s apparently had at least 15 transient ischemic attacks – these are basically mini-strokes causing a temporary blockage to the brain. Despite this, he’s an incredibly healthy young man and has decided not to let it impact his life or scare him. He continues to live his life daily and deal with side effects like memory loss in his own way.
Anthony Anderson, an actor in the hit TV show Black-ish, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2002. He says that the disease blindsided him, and he had no idea how he would deal with the diagnosis. He now treats this condition by walking and jogging on the treadmill twice a day, and he has a trainer in Los Angeles that works with the actor four times a week. Anthony has also incorporated healthy eating into his lifestyle, giving him more control over his life. Injectables also form part of his treatment, and he is doing incredibly well with this combination.
Pop icon Cher has Epstein-Barr virus, which she had in the 1980s. This left her bedridden for months, and it caused depression for her as well. This virus also affects her kidneys and heart, and will cause chronic fatigue for the rest of her life. While this clearly does take a toll on Cher, she is still alive and well, performing where she can and even still putting out new music. It seems like the saying, “The show must go on,” rings valid with this pop sensation.
Gabrielle Union, our favorite movie cheerleader, has experienced about eight to nine miscarriages in her life and attempts to have children. She explains that she felt like her body was a prisoner of trying to get pregnant as she went through IVF cycles, another one and another one. When she was battling to become pregnant, she finally got some answers with the diagnosis of adenomyosis. This is a specific form of endometriosis that affects the uterus. Gabrielle wasn’t ready to give up hopes of having more children, and she and her husband opted for a surrogate for another child.
Star Wars actress, Daisy Ridley, is another female star who has been diagnosed with endometriosis. She received this news at just 15 years old. Up until her diagnosis, she had tried everything from products to antibiotics which ultimately left her body in a mess. She then discovered she also had polycystic ovaries, which is why nothing worked to help her skin or pain. This celeb had to work with a doctor and specialists to get hormones tested and understand her body better. She is now advocating for other women experiencing this to do the same as she did.
Supermodel Gigi Hadid first revealed her diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease in 2016. When she first began modeling, she had not been diagnosed yet and often came under fire from people calling her too big to be a model. She explains that it was a side effect of the condition which caused inflammation and water retention. Since then, she’s been working to create a healthier lifestyle to treat this and has been on medication. Gigi worries about her weight and being too skinny as her body reacts differently now that she’s on the right track. When walking in the Victoria’s Secret show, she didn’t want to lose weight and just wanted to put on muscle instead.
Did you know that Nick Jonas was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was just 13 years old? He ended up in the hospital while on tour with the Jonas Brothers, and doctors discovered his abnormal blood sugar levels. Nick Jonas has since gotten his health back on track and is doing incredibly well. He uses his diagnosis to help others and raise awareness of the condition. The singer tries to have a thoughtful lifestyle to keep his body as healthy as possible. Nick Jonas is also impressed with how far technology to help manage this condition has come in the 16 years since his diagnosis.
Wendy Williams, a daytime talk show host, has Graves’ disease. This leads to an overproduction of thyroid hormones, which can affect a person’s overall health. She took a break from her show to receive treatment for the condition as it was causing her fatigue. It’s incredible when we are reminded that celebrities are human and that the things that affect us can also affect them. Wendy Williams fainted on stage during a Halloween episode, which can be linked to her Graves’ disease diagnosis.
Former child star, Aaron Carter, has opened up about a hiatal hernia which is the condition causing his very gaunt appearance. This stress condition ultimately takes a massive toll on his appetite. He has referred to this condition as basically being an eating disorder. He was first diagnosed with the hiatal hernia when he was 19 and said this is why he’s so skinny. Carter has also spoken to the public about being kind to him as he didn’t choose to have this condition. Hopefully, this encourages people to be kinder to each other on the internet because you never know what someone else is going through.
Tennis superstar Venus Williams first experienced symptoms including fatigue and shortness of breath. She explains that no matter how hard she worked, she was always exhausted and out of breath. This began to frustrate her, even more so when the symptoms got so bad that she couldn’t play professional tennis anymore. Seven years passed before Venus Williams finally received a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease which is called Sjogren’s syndrome. This isn’t an illness that can be cured, but it can be managed, and on the proper medication, Venus is back in good health.
Singer of Chandelier, Sia, revealed in a Tweet that she is going through a lot as she battles chronic pain caused by an autoimmune disease and another genetic condition too. She shared a message of hope and inspiration to others who may be experiencing the same pain as her. Sia said in her tweet, “you’re not alone.” Her autoimmune condition is Grave’s disease causing the body’s immune system to attack the thyroid gland. She also has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting a person’s bones, joints, skin, and even blood vessels.
Bella Hadid, Gigi Hadid’s sister and model, is battling Lyme disease, just like her mother, Yolanda Hadid. She opened up about her journey in hopes of bringing awareness to all the teenagers who might have it. She is working to find a cure and is fighting to create a Lyme-free world. The diagnosis caused her to give up one of her life passions, horse riding, as she no longer had the brain power to do this activity. Bella goes on to say that one of the hardest things was everyone thinking she was OK on the outside but knew something was wrong on the inside. She’s doing her best to live a healthy life and find something to cure this condition.
Jane the Virgin… AKA Gina Rodriguez has Hashimoto’s disease. When Gina Rodriguez first received the news about her condition, she felt like it was a lifetime curse. While it is treatable, there is no cure, and Gina began to see the weight gain from Hashimoto’s at 26. In Hollywood, this celeb felt like this could be a real hindrance to her career. This actress continued to deny what she was experiencing rather than doing what she could to treat it. Gina Rodriguez didn’t think she would win. Since then, the actress has realized that Hashimoto’s affects many aspects of your life, and taking care of yourself has to become a priority.
Jillian Michaels, a fitness star, first experienced the signs of PCOS when she was just a teenager. She says the pain was so bad that her mom had to take her to the hospital in the middle of the night – she even suspected it might be her appendix. Once they found a type of fluid from a burst cyst, they knew what it was. Initially, she was prescribed birth control pills to help manage the condition and rebalance her hormones. Jillian decided not to remain on the birth control as she didn’t like the side effects. Still living with the disease, she keeps well by eating healthy and staying active and hasn’t experienced significant PCOS-related issues in 20 years.
Bret Michael, a rock singer, had a setback with his health when his doctors discovered a hole in his heart that caused a warning stroke. He felt the left side of his body slowly going numb, and he returned to the hospital that was actually treating him for a brain hemorrhage a month before this. The doctors then discovered that Bret Michael had a transient ischemic attack. The good news is that it was operable as well as being treatable. Luckily, they were able to diagnose the rock singer, and he was released from the hospital about 12 days after the incident.
Will.i.am, singer and performer, has opened up about being diagnosed with ADHD as a child. However, he isn’t letting this hold him back and instead believes this has actually helped him throughout his music career. When he was diagnosed as a child, he never took medication to address the symptoms caused by ADHD. He thinks it’s all just to sell medicine and feels it’s helped him be creative and focus on more things at a time. He’s proved that he is a creative genius, and maybe he has the right approach to treating this condition.
Selma Blair has become a real advocate for MS since being diagnosed in 2018. This Cruel Intentions actress processed the news for a couple of months before sharing it publicly. Apparently, her doctors initially thought she was experiencing sadness and possibly being overwhelmed in her role as a mother. Since then, Selma Blair has filmed a documentary giving insight into her life with multiple sclerosis and how she manages it. This actress has a team of people helping her deal with the symptoms but is still out and about living her life. Selma Blair initially felt depressed and drank when she got the news, but now she’s living her life to the fullest.
Elisabeth Hasselback, TV show host, said there were days when she would feel terrible and other days when she didn’t feel too bad. But, she didn’t know what was causing her to feel this way, and she couldn’t quite put her finger on what made her feel sick. She did her own online research and eventually came across information on gluten intolerance and celiac disease. She then self-diagnosed herself with celiac disease, which is an autoimmune condition triggered by gluten. The treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet, and that’s precisely what Elisabeth is doing to keep her health in check.
Lady Gaga, the queen of pop, is another celebrity who deals with fibromyalgia, but there’s something that really gets to her with this condition. It’s when people don’t believe that this is an actual condition. For Lady Gaga, she feels it is a “cyclone of anxiety” along with depression, trauma, panic disorder, and PTSD, which sends her nervous system into overdrive and causes nerve pain. There have been times when Lady Gaga was in so much pain that she couldn’t perform and had to cancel her concerts. It is a condition she lives with and treats as much as she can.
Actor Michael J. Fox had to quit acting, his passion, after 30 years of dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. The theater had to take a back seat as this disease started to impact his memory and his ability to speak. While going through all of this, he remains optimistic about his future with the disease even though there isn’t a cure for it yet. The Back to the Future star indeed fought to keep his acting career going as long as possible even though his doctor said he would only be able to act for ten more years – he pushed that all the way to 30 years. However, he acknowledges how “weird” it is that he’s done so well with it.
If you don’t know about Jada Pinkett Smith’s battle with alopecia, you’ve been living under a rock! Her struggle with hair loss was brought to light at the 2022 Oscars when Will Smith and Chris Rock were involved in an altercation surrounding a joke about her condition. Even though there has been drama around this revelation, she hasn’t let it stop her from living her best life. Jada, known for acting and being the Red Table Talk host, shows off her incredible skin and frequently updates her followers on her hair loss journey caused by the autoimmune disorder alopecia.
Montel Williams, TV personality and now chronic illness advocate, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999. However, before finding out what he had, he remained undiagnosed for 20 years with shocking symptoms like feeling as though his feet were on fire. To Montel, his diagnosis was a “mixed blessing.” He thought it taught him just how necessary willpower is and, more than that, why it’s so vital to advocate for yourself and for your health. Montel’s message to others going through MS is not to let the disease define them and to communicate with your doctor frequently about the progression.
Kim Kardashian, a reality TV star, was 25 when she had her first psoriasis flare-up. She had a common cold, and since psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, it was then triggered. Kim K. experienced it all over her stomach and legs but managed to treat it with a cortisone shot, and it didn’t come back for another five years. It then came back when she was in her 30s, but she wasn’t sure if it was the same condition causing it. Kim K. has been dealing with it for eight years and, at first, was very self-conscious about it, but now it’s just part of who she is. She has used every cream and ointment to deal with this.
Lena Dunham, star and writer of Girls, is another female celebrity who has undergone an intense battle against endometriosis. She underwent numerous surgeries to try and help her with the chronic pain she was dealing with. Dunham says that these surgeries are measured in the double digits. She eventually decided to have a total hysterectomy to free her from the pain. As someone who grew up envisioning themselves as a mother, this was a huge decision but one that would help relieve her of the pain. The decision was made only when the pain became unbearable.
Tom Hanks has admitted that being an idiot caused him to develop type 2 diabetes. He says he belonged to the lazy American generation that gained weight and didn’t care about it. However, it has become his priority to get back in shape. According to Tom Hanks’ doctor, he could potentially cure himself of type 2 diabetes by losing weight. The doctor explained to Tom that he should no longer have type 2 diabetes when he hits a target weight. It is possible to ‘cure’ yourself of this type of diabetes, which is why promoting a healthy lifestyle is so important.
Charlie Sheen is an actor who has been living with an HIV diagnosis for many years. The day he was diagnosed felt like a death sentence, but thank goodness his mother was there with him when he got the news. Once that had passed through his mind, Charlie Sheen was then handed a bunch of pills by the doctors and told to go home; the actor would live. Charlie Sheen was eternally thankful from that point onward because he said if it had been another diagnosis, such as brain cancer, he might not be here right now.
Selena Gomez, Disney Child Star turned pop sensation, has undergone a kidney transplant, graciously donated to her by her friend Francia Raisa. This was all due to her diagnosis of lupus, an autoimmune disease. When Selena Gomez first received her diagnosis, she was told she might one day need a transplant, but she wasn’t taking it in or understanding what they meant. What keeps her going through all her health struggles is that she can help people. Selena kept asking herself, “Why me?” but then would answer her question by being able to help others and raise awareness of these conditions.