When a loved one receives a difficult diagnosis, having supportive family and friends means the world. But for the glittering reality of celebrities, there’s a special opportunity to share the journey to healing with more than just a close circle. These stars chose to open up about their diagnoses and road to recovery so they can raise better awareness and help share hope with those who battling the same conditions.
We hope each of their stories leads to more research, awareness, and treatment for difficult diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, and lupus. Because in spite of some glitz and glam, these people share a very human experience that we can all relate to.
1.Michael J. Fox: Parkinson’s Disease
Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991, but he didn’t tell the public until 1998. (1) Since his diagnosis, he started the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which is dedicated to finding a cure for the disease. Parkinson’s diagnosis usually happens after about 60 years of age, but some people are diagnosed earlier, like Fox. The exact cause of the degenerative disease is still unknown.
2. Ben Stiller: Prostate Cancer
Ben Stiller was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014, in spite of reporting no symptoms or family history. His medical team found the cancer using a PSA test which Stiller took annually. Ben Stiller announced in an interview in 2016 that he was cancer-free, stressing to men everywhere “you need to educate yourself”. (2)
3. Michael C Hall: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Michael C Hall was diagnosed with lymphoma while shooting the 4th season of TV hit Dexter. He went public with his diagnosis in early 2010. Of his announcement, Hall recalls, “I thought it would be conspicuous if I showed up (at the awards) without eyebrows, and so I made an announcement…I’m glad I did,” he continues, “because I really underestimated how much that would be a source of inspiration or strength to other people.” (3)
Hall announced that he was in remission late 2010. (4)
4. Hugh Jackman: Skin Cancer
Hugh Jackman has actually been diagnosed with skin cancer 6 times now! He’s a major advocate for frequent screenings to catch cancer early. But thanks to regular check-ins with his medical team and several minor operations, Jackman continues to beat skin cancer every time. (5)
5. Christina Applegate: Breast Cancer
Christina Applegate was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Regular mammograms weren’t picking up on any warning signs, but being the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, Applegate insisted on being careful. Her medical team discovered the cancer in an MRI. Applegate chose to undergo a double mastectomy, which she confessed was a difficult, but worthwhile decision, “It was one of those things that I woke up and it felt so right,” she says. “It just seemed like, ‘I don’t want to have to deal with this again. I don’t want to keep putting that stuff in my body. I just want to be done with this.”(6)
6. Sharon Osbourne: Colorectal Cancer
Sharon Osbourne went through a difficult battle with colorectal cancer in 2002. After an operation, she announced to the public that the cancer had spread; nevertheless, she maintained a positive attitude, “You think nothing will ever happen to you. You’re invincible,” she told PEOPLE. “Then after you get over the shock and panic, you realize how lucky you are to be alive. That’s where I’m at now. I simply have to take care of this thing.” (7).
After becoming officially in remission, Osbourne founded the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program to improve the lives of patients and their loved ones and encourage cancer screening.
7. Nick Cannon: Lupus
Nick Cannon was diagnosed with lupus in early 2012. He had been experiencing fatigue and unexplained swollen joints; he eventually landed in the hospital with kidney failure, after which his medical team finally found the true cause of his symptoms. Cannon admits the chronic autoimmune condition is “a tough disease”, but is still enjoying a busy and thriving entertainment career. “I’m just as vibrant and as fly and as exciting as I’ve ever been, if not more now that I have the disease…I see it as a blessing, not a curse. I have lupus, lupus does not have me.” (8)
8. Kathy Bates: Breast Cancer
After already beating ovarian cancer, Kathy Bates was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. Bates had been experiencing fatigued and being flushed, but didn’t think it was a real red flag until a close friend encouraged her to check it out. “It would have been easy for me to write off all of those things if she hadn’t been there,” Bates said. (9)
Bates also became a spokesperson for Lymphatic Education and Research Network, after battling lymphedema which was a result of her double mastectomy. She also continues to encourage women to pause and pay attention to their bodies, “Often they’re so busy they forget to take care of themselves.”
Julia Roberts: Werlhof’s Disease
Julia Roberts, although obviously an incredibly well-known actress, prefers to keep her personal and family life to herself. So when, the Star released a friend’s quote about Roberts’ alleged diagnosis with Werlhof’s disease (aka immune thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITB) in 2002, the public didn’t get much comment from Roberts herself (10). Nevertheless, she continues to act in many successful films and care for her children, all while keeping the balance between celebrity life and a down-to-earth experience (after all, mental health is health!). She discusses her preference for distancing the media in this interview with People magazine: