“They help demystify disability & broaden awareness.” That is what journalist, Victoria Brownworth, Tweeted of celebrities who share their stories of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Specifically, she was referring to Cruel Intentions star, Selma Blair, who revealed her diagnosis to her 700,000+ Instagram followers in a heartfelt post. Celebrities are unique in their ability to raise awareness of diseases and Blair is not alone in revealing that she is living with MS. Here are the stories of three others who have helped draw attention to the disease.
Learn about the different types of MS here:
“I have probably had this incurable disease for 15 years.”
Selma Blair revealed she is living with multiple sclerosis in an emotional Instagram post, in which she describes some of the symptoms she is dealing with, thanked those close to her for their support, and expressed her hopes for the future.
In doing so, she has undoubtedly brought the disease to the attention of many fans who may not know a lot about the condition.
Awareness celebrities bring to chronic conditions can be a powerful tool in tackling the stigma surrounding them and lead to a greater level of understanding. In revealing she lives with MS, Blair joins a number of other celebrities who have made their diagnosis public and who have subsequently become advocates for everyone living with the condition.
Ultimately, the more everyone knows about chronic – and often invisible – conditions, such as MS, the more people living with them have the confidence to be open and honest, without fear of judgement or career consequences.
Here are the stories of three other public figures who have revealed they are living with MS.
London-born Jack Osbourne became a household name in the US when The Osbournes, a reality TV show documenting the hectic life of his family, aired on MTV in 2002.
Back then he was known as a rebellious teenager, while his battle with addiction to painkillers when he was 17 years old was also aired.
His successful recovery, which included quitting drinking, culminated with the birth of his first child in 2012. Just three months later, Osbourne announced that he had been diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), having temporarily lost vision in his right eye.
He told British magazine, Hello!: “The timing was so bad. I'd just had a baby, work was going great… I kept thinking: ‘Why now?’”
After initial anger and sadness at his diagnosis, Osbourne adopted the motto ‘adapt and overcome’ and has since become a prominent advocate for MS awareness.
He teamed up with Teva Neuroscience to launch You Don’t Know Jack About MS, which aims to ‘dispel myths, educate and help patients manage their disease.’
The website chronicles how Osbourne has managed MS over the past six years, particularly focusing on his diet and fitness regime, which included featuring on Dancing with the Stars in 2013. His participation on the show, in which he came third, also helped draw attention to MS.
He is still a vocal advocate, motivated by his desire to ‘remove the stigma associated with the disease that has prevented so many people from pursuing their dreams.’
Jamie-Lynn Sigler, best known for her role as the daughter of mob boss, Tony Soprano, in The Sopranos, lived with MS for 15 years before revealing her diagnosis in 2016.
Sigler recalls the time when, as a 20-year-old, she consulted a medical professional within the entertainment industry. She told Today: “They said, ‘I'm going to pretend you didn't tell me that. I don't think you should ever tell anyone that you have this disease. People will limit you, people will judge you, and people won’t hire you.’ And I took that advice. I was 20 years old and I was scared.”
Despite the few castmates she did confide in encouraging her to reveal her diagnosis, she was afraid to so and was concerned it would ruin her career.
Other posts you may be interested in on the MyTherapy blog:
- At a Loss for Words: What Not to Say to Someone Living with MS
- Multiple Sclerosis Blogs: Eight of the Best
Like Osbourne, Sigler lives with the relapsing-remitting form of MS. With treatment, she was able to control the symptoms enough to continue with her career. And when symptoms did flare up, she blamed a bad back for her limitations.
After The Sopranos finished, Sigler considered quitting acting, so she would never have to reveal her MS publicly.
However, after her hypnotherapist told her that her secret was toxic and she needed to relieve herself from the shame and guilt of hiding her struggle, Sigler decided to go public.
The timing also coincided with her marriage to Cutter Dykstra, which she saw as an opportunity for a fresh start and outlook. Her son, Beau, was 2 years old at the time, which also motivated Sigler; she did not want to burden him with her secret as he got older and wanted to be an example of strength to him.
Sigler revealed her condition in an interview with People magazine. Since doing so, she has received waves of support and her career has continued to flourish, while she believes her health has improved as she no longer carries the stress and fear she did previously.
Sigler’s story highlights how the stigma of MS and misunderstanding of it can prevent those living with it from speaking out. However, the response to the news since she revealed her diagnosis, along with her continued success, shows that significant progress is being made.
She now speaks openly in the media about her MS, discusses it on social media, and is active in raising money for the MS Society and Race to Erase MS.
Ann Romney’s husband, Mitt Romney, may have lost the 2012 presidential election to Barack Obama, but she was able to raise an enormous amount of awareness on the campaign trail.
Romney was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 1998, at the age of 49, having first experienced symptoms the previous year. She was told, to her dismay, there was no treatment as her symptoms “weren’t too bad.”
It was only when Romney met Dr. Howard Weiner, who took a more aggressive approach to treatment, that her symptoms were kept under better control.
It was on the campaign trail that she was able to draw more attention to the condition. In Florida, she spoke with another lady living with MS and discussed treatment, diet, and the effect on her ability to play tennis. She mentioned MS speeches and discussed it in an interview on ABC.
Shortly after the election, Romney was having a routine check-up when she asked Dr. Weiner about the latest research. He told her about a potential breakthrough in treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and how drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease may help with other neurological conditions.
The news prompted Romney to dedicate her time to a new center focused on research into those two conditions and MS. Two years later, the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases opened at the Brigham and Women Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
The following year she released a book, the title of which – In This Together: My Story – is based on the words her husband said the day she was diagnosed. In it, she is remarkably candid about the effects of MS when it comes to her family (Romney has five children and 24 grandchildren), lifestyle, and a wide range of other topics.
The vast wealth of the Romney family was often used as a stick to beat them with during the 2012 election. Regardless of your political persuasions, however, it is fair to say that Ann Romney has used both her financial clout and public persona as a force for good when it comes to MS research and advocacy.
The Power of Celebrity Advocacy
Aside from MS, household names such as Lady Gaga, Michael J. Fox, Selena Gomez, and Kim Kardashian have opened up about living with a range of chronic conditions.
The unique position these celebrities are in means the exposure they bring to such conditions helps tackle the stigma, raises money for research, and gives countless people the confidence to be open about living with a chronic condition.
Take a look at some of the other posts on the MyTherapy blog: