Top 10 Celebs Who Opened Up About Life-Threatening Illnesses

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Top 10 Celebs Who Opened Up About Life-Threatening Illnesses

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These celebs were willing to open up about life-threatening illnesses. For this list, we'll be looking at famous folks who have bravely and publicly spoken about the debilitating and potentially dangerous medical conditions with which they live. Our countdown includes Emilia Clarke, Nick Jonas, Sarah Hyland, and more!
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Top 10 Celebs Who Opened Up About Life-Threatening Illnesses


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 celebs who opened up about life-threatening illnesses.

For this list, we’ll be looking at famous folks who have bravely and publicly spoken about the debilitating and potentially dangerous medical conditions with which they live.

What do you make of their comments? Let us know below!

#10: Nick Jonas


As part of the famous Jonas Brothers, this musician became a household name around 2007 with the release of the band’s eponymous album. By then, Nick Jonas was already living with type 1 diabetes. A very prevalent autoimmune disease, it can sometimes result in some severe and life-threatening complications, including something called diabetic ketoacidosis. Jonas was diagnosed in November 2005, a few months after his 13th birthday. He’s been an advocate of diabetes support for years, and has shared his experiences with it. He’s also created and teamed up with various charity organizations, and has even appeared before the United States Senate in a bid to increase the funds that go to diabetes research.

#9: Avril Lavigne


Most people are able to celebrate turning 30. But Avril Lavigne spent much of her birthday lying in bed, before ultimately getting diagnosed with Lyme disease. The condition is manageable when treated, but can otherwise result in some seriously nasty complications, like paralysis, and in rare cases, even death. Lavigne has talked about the debilitating symptoms that she was experiencing, like persistent lethargy. She has since done plenty to inform and educate others about the disease. In October of 2020, for instance, she put on a livestream concert called #FightLyme to help raise money for charity.

#8: Toni Braxton


A very famous R&B singer with an illustrious career, Toni Braxton is a legend of American music. In 2010, she explained that she had been living with lupus. While the prognosis is relatively good with today’s technology and medicine, the chronic autoimmune disease is not without complications. And it was once highly fatal, killing its sufferers in just a few years. In fact, Braxton’s uncle passed away from issues relating to the condition. The star initially kept her diagnosis private but eventually informed the public, notably saying that letting everyone know was a “relief.” She’s since consistently shed light on the realities that come with having lupus, becoming an important voice for others living with the disease.

#7: Anthony Anderson


The star of ABC’s “Black-ish,” Anthony Anderson has been living with type 2 diabetes since 2002. Just like type 1, this condition can prove fatal if left untreated. Anderson has spoken on numerous occasions about his journey with it. When he was 31 years old, he began experiencing severe lethargy and an unquenchable thirst. He was diagnosed shortly after. His stepfather, Sterling Bowman, soon received a diagnosis as well after decades of living with the symptoms, but tragically succumbed to complications of the disease. His passing prompted Anderson to open up about the disease and take charge of his own health.

#6: Selena Gomez


This celebrity is not only a highly successful singer and actress, but she’s among the most prominent people with lupus. That’s not just because Gomez herself is famous, but because she’s been so powerfully open in chronicling her battle with the disease. Gomez revealed that she was suffering from lupus in 2015, some time post-diagnosis, and she’s been very vocal about her story ever since. She’s notably spoken about her chemotherapy treatments and how her close friend and fellow star Francia Raisa gave her the kidney she needed for a transplant. By letting fans see what comes with living and thriving with such a diagnosis, Gomez has helped educate countless people about lupus.

#5: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


One of the most famous basketball players of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made waves throughout his sporting career with numerous All Star titles and NBA championships. The renowned athlete retired in 1989. About twenty years later, after he had transitioned to coaching, he told the world that he had been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. He was very vocal about his journey with the disease, having talked about his treatment plan and even partnering with the company that manufactured his treatment. Thankfully, Abdul-Jabbar revealed that he was in remission in 2011, delighting folks everywhere.

#4: Sarah Hyland


This actress rose to fame in the late 2000s playing Haley Dunphy in the acclaimed sitcom “Modern Family.” Unfortunately, her time on the show was marred by severe health problems. Hyland suffers from something called kidney dysplasia. This is a rare disease in which someone is born with a malformed kidney. In 2012 - when “Modern Family” was in the midst of airing its third season - Hyland underwent a kidney transplant with the help of her dad. The organ was eventually rejected, and Hyland got another transplant as a result. This kidney was provided by her brother. Hyland has been very transparent when it comes to her disease, having explained its effects on her mental health and sharing the details of her numerous surgeries.

#3: Selma Blair


Notably known for her work in “Legally Blonde” and “Hellboy,” Selma Blair has multiple sclerosis. While MS isn’t usually deadly in and of itself, it can cause fatal complications, and life expectancy in those with it is typically reduced. Blair announced the news in October 2018 via Instagram, stating that she had gotten a diagnosis just a few months earlier. She explained that she had been experiencing symptoms for almost twenty years but was never taken seriously by doctors. These include problems like poor memory, clumsiness, and impaired motor function. Blair was finally diagnosed with MS after falling in front of her doctor, and she was quick to not only share the news, but tell the world what it meant.

#2: Emilia Clarke


On March 21, 2019, The New Yorker published a very personal article written by Emilia Clarke herself. Titled “A Battle for My Life,” the piece detailed her experiences with multiple brain aneurysms. The first occurred when Clarke was exercising. She felt an incredible pain in her head and proceeded to vomit. After she was rushed to the hospital, she was diagnosed with a ruptured aneurysm. The hemorrhage caused enormous damage to Clarke’s brain, and at one point she couldn’t even recall her own name. She underwent further surgery in 2013 to fix another aneurysm. In 2022, Clarke once again opened up about her experiences, telling the BBC that while she’s able to live normally, large chunks of her brain are “no longer usable.”

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Nick Cannon
Going Against Advice, Cannon Shared His Lupus Diagnosis & Became an Advocate

Wendy Williams
She Has Spoken Up In Recent Years About Having Graves’ Disease

Gina Rodriguez
The Star Has Long Discussed Her Battle with Hashimoto's Disease

Missy Elliott
She Went Public A Few Years Being Diagnosed with Graves’ Disease

#1: Michael J. Fox


This actor has long been linked to Parkinson’s. But there was also a period where he kept his condition private. Fox learned that he had early-onset Parkinson’s in 1991, when he was just 29 years old. However, the world only learned the news in 1998. Ever since then, Fox has written numerous books detailing his battle with the disease, started The Michael J. Fox Foundation, and testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee to help raise awareness. He also continued to act through it all, even as the condition progressed. Unfortunately, Fox officially announced his retirement in 2020 owing to issues with both memory and speech.
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