It is easy to imagine that the celebrities we admire are all in the best of health, but in fact some are suffering from medical conditions which make their lives more difficult than we think. Some celebrities prefer to be more private about their health issues, while others discuss them openly, often making good use of their high profile positions to raise awareness of illnesses and conditions which are affecting millions of people around the world.
One of the best known campaigners for medical conditions is Michael J Fox, who was diagnosed with the degenerative Parkinsons disease in 1991 at the age of 30. Since then he launched the Michael J Fox Foundation whose aims are to find a cure for the disease and to develop therapies to assist people currently suffering from the condition. The Foundation provides high levels of funding to research possible cures and promotes awareness of Parkinsons. Michael J Fox continues to work as a successful actor, as well as being closely involved in promoting the work of the Foundation. Last year Billy Connolly was also diagnosed with Parkinsons disease. He continues to work, despite the impact on his memory.
Rheumatoid arthritis is known to affect several famous people, including the actor Kathleen Turner who was told she was suffering from the condition when she was just 38. Therapies and treatments have allowed her to continue to work since then. The late Lucille Ball also suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, having been diagnosed as a teenager, yet despite this she went on to have a hugely successful acting career.
Osteoporosis is another condition suffered by a number of celebrities, including Sally Field, Joan Rivers and perhaps surprisingly the health-conscious Gwyneth Paltrow. With one in three women expected to develop osteoporosis, there must be many more celebrities suffering from it too.
Alzheimer's is no stranger to some older celebrities, although it is rarely discussed openly. Prunella Scales is one of the few actors to have broken this trend, having publicly disclosed her mild version of the condition. Her husband and fellow actor, Timothy West, has also discussed how they cope with her condition, and together they are helping to reduce the stigma often associated with Alzheimer's. Remarkably, the 81 year old Prunella Scales continues to work, but admits it can now be harder memorising her lines.
The author Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's in 2007, and continues to write best-selling books as well as working to raise awareness of and improve funding for research into a cure for the condition.
An optimistic outlook seems to be a key common factor among the people who suffer from serious conditions yet carry on working and in many cases find the energy to raise awareness of or support research into the condition. Seeing people in the public eye continuing to lead successful careers despite debilitating medical conditions can be an inspiration to everyone.