From the red carpet to the glaring lights of the silver screen, celebrities are often considered the epitome of perfection. With exquisite gowns of shimmering jewels and tailored suits to the latest relationship and baby gossip: celebrities are forever immersed in the spotlight as their fans long for details about their wealth, their love, their interests, and yes even their health.
Of course, celebrities are not as perfect as the media portrays them to be and suffer much of the same health problems that so many of us face in our daily lives. From heart and skin conditions to diabetes and epilepsy: celebrities are not immune to severe illnesses despite their best attempts to hide their suffering from the paparazzi and their fans. No one wants a group of cameras photographing the worst moments of their lives, especially not when it comes to being ill.
Which celebrities have been able to overcome severe illnesses to become beacons of success in not only their industry, but in their health as well? There are quite a few more than you might imagine, but we have selected eight celebrities battling severe illnesses who are true inspirations for strength and courage. They face the realities of their illnesses on a daily basis: despite symptoms and side effects, they put forth their greatest effort.
Which celebrities have severe illnesses and what are they? Let’s start our list with America’s most decorated Olympian.
#8 – Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time. With 22 medals to his name, Phelps has set just about every record in the sport of swimming, as well as the Olympics overall. Phelps not only has the most gold medals (coming in at an astounding 18), but he earned the most medals in one Olympic Game: with eight in Beijing during the 2008 games. Phelps secured four more gold medals in his last go around at the 2012 games in London.
Phelps is one of the 10 million Americans who is currently struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, otherwise known as ADHD. Phelps was diagnosed at a young age and, like so many others, was told that it could often lead to further symptoms in adulthood if not treated. Some of the worst symptoms of ADHD include an inability to concentrate, and social anxiety. Needless to say, Phelps has been able to overcome his ADHD to become one of the greatest athletes in the history of swimming and the Olympics.
#7 – Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus might sound like a real name, but her birth name, Destiny Hope Cyrus, sounds even more like a stage name than Miley. Cyrus is the daughter of the early 1990’s country star, Billy Ray Cyrus, and was introduced to the world as the star of the Disney Channel show: Hannah Montana.
Since leaving the Disney Channel, Miley has since launched a successful solo pop singing career with hits that include “Wrecking Ball” and “We Can’t Stop”.
It’s estimated that in the United States, 2.7 million people suffer from a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation, which creates a very rapid heart rate even when an individual is completely at rest. With this outstanding number, it’s not surprising that there are a number of celebrities who also suffer. Also known as a form of tachycardia, atrial fibrillation is common and, as Miley has told her fans, isn’t life threatening.
#6 – Jon Hamm
Jon Hamm is now 44 years old, but was a fairly unknown star until 2007 when he was tabbed as the leading role of Don Draper in the hit AMC show Mad Men. The show became a huge success for AMC, and netted Hamm a Golden Globe Award.
Hamm has gone on to perform in larger film roles: with appearances in The Town, Bridesmaids, and Million Dollar Arm. In reflection of his great success, Hamm has also been nominated for a total of 11 Emmy awards.
Hamm has a rare skin condition known as Vitiligo, which is believed to affect less than one percent of the world’s population. The disease is known to kill some of the skin pigment cells in a person, which causes parts of the skin to look much different than the rest. There is no known cure for Vitiligo, but it is not a life threatening illness. Interestingly enough, Hamm has been able to conceal his Vitiligo throughout his career.
#5 – Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anderson was born in Canada, but came to America with the hopes of stardom as she worked to launch herself into a modeling career. Anderson became almost instantly recognizable, landing her first big television roles in Home Improvement and Baywatch.
Anderson also earned a big appearance in Playboy, as she was recognized as Playmate of the Month in February 1990. In addition to her modeling and acting fame, Anderson has also had a couple of highly publicized marriages to rockers Tommy Lee and Kid Rock.
In her relationship with Tommy Lee, Anderson was struck with Hepatitis C. Anderson and Tommy Lee are big fans of tattoos, and the two happened to share a needle when they were getting inked. Lee already had the virus, and when the needle was shared it was transmitted to Anderson through the blood to blood contact. Hepatitis C is treatable, so it is not expected to have a large impact on Anderson’s long term health.
#4 – Prince
Prince is not only his stage name but is also part of his real name, Prince Nelson. Of course, Prince Nelson doesn’t sound quite as cool as “Prince”. From the state of Minnesota, Prince has been one of the biggest acts in R&B and Pop for more than three decades.
With nearly 100 singles to his name, Prince has reached the top of the charts with five singles. He has also had eight albums that have gone to number one worldwide.
When Prince was growing up in his home state of Minnesota, he struggled with epilepsy: meaning that he had seizures on an almost regular basis.
Fortunately for Prince, the seizures have become rarer thanks to improvements in treatment for the disease. Although Prince will always have epilepsy, it is unlikely that his fans will ever see him suffer on stage. Despite the seizures now being gone, Prince openly talks about the struggle he faced as a child and his gratitude for now being seizure-free.
#3 – Morgan Freeman
At 77 years old, Morgan Freeman has accomplished a lot in his acting career despite being well into his 50’s when he started to make a name for himself in Hollywood. Freeman has one of the most iconic voices in the entertainment history, which has helped him land roles that have led to five Academy Award nominations.
With an outstanding number of nominations, Freeman also has an Academy Award win to his name as the Best Supporting Actor in 2005 from Million Dollar Baby.
It wasn’t until 2013 that Freeman admitted to suffering from Fibromyalgia: the disease has caused shooting pain in Freeman’s arm, and has caused him to scale back on his hobbies outside of the Hollywood spotlight. Because of the intense pain, Freeman no longer gets to enjoy flying airplanes or cruising around on his sailboat. Fibromyalgia causes severe pain, as well as fatigue and loss of sleep. A debilitating disease to contract, fans would never know Freeman suffered silently from fibromyalgia simply because of his dedication and work ethic.
#2 – Cher
It is hard to believe that it has been 50 years since Cher came out with her first hit, “I Got You Babe” alongside her then husband, Sonny Bono. Since then, Cher has been an icon in the pop music industry: landing her the nickname of the Goddess of Pop.
Cher signed a deal in 2008 to perform at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for three years, an act that netted her nearly $200 million in earnings. Needless to say, it has been quite the career for Cher.
Cher suffers from a disease known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, more commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
This disease can cause pain across the body, as well as a lack of sleep, which drastically affects the lives of those who suffer. Cher has been able to battle through this even with a busy schedule; what is even more astounding is that significant rest can’t help fix chronic fatigue syndrome, which means that this disease poses an everyday battle to overcome.
#1 – Tom Hanks
When you have a discussion about who is the all-time best actor, the discussion usually includes Tom Hanks’s name. Hanks has been the star of some of the biggest films ever made including: Forrest Gump, Toy Story and Saving Private Ryan.
Hanks has been incredibly decorated throughout his career, having won multiple Academy Awards and Golden Globes. Hanks’s films have earned more than $8 billion worldwide, which is among the highest ever in the industry.
In 2013, Hanks revealed on “The Late Show with David Letterman” that he had been in a pre-diabetic stage since he was 36 years old. That same year, Hanks’s pre-diabetes was diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes: which means that his blood sugar is not as regulated as it is in a normal body. It’s estimated that 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, and that another 8 million do not know that they have it. So “check your blood sugar” as Wilford Brimley would say.