Many celebrities have graced the covers of PainPathways and told their stories to our readers. There are many more who are familiar with pain both on and off the set. When it comes to celebrities and chronic pain, those who share their experiences can be an inspiration to fans and create awareness for pain-related conditions. Here’s a look at some famous people who have experienced chronic pain:
Best known for playing Bree Van De Kamp on “Desperate Housewives,” Cross has suffered from painful migraine headaches since she was 14 years old. “I was knocked out and writhing in pain, and it was horribly excruciating,” the actress said in an interview with MSNBC.com. With medication, Cross said she feels she has a handle on the excruciating headaches. In 2006, Cross was the spokeswoman for drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, raising awareness about migraine pain. “I know when it’s coming on, and I take my medication, and in a number of hours, I’m back on my feet again,” she said.
The talented host of Top Chef does double duty as an advocate and co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America. “The reason I that I got involved with the Endometriosis Foundation of America is because I became very angry at the fact that I personally was only diagnosed with endometriosis at age 36. … I too fell through the cracks.” Not only was she misdiagnosed but she regrets not taking more control of her medical care. She shares, “I thought that the doctors knew better. Doctors should listen to patients and patients should listen to their own bodies. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong.” Her focus is on making sure younger generations are informed. “I wish my own mother had said, ‘If this happens, we are going to find out why, and we’re going to try and fix it as much as we possibly can…so that you can live the life that you should have the opportunity to live.’”
The actress was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1992, though she’d experienced symptoms for about a year before that. A blood test confirmed the diagnosis, which changed how she looked at herself. “Suddenly all that stuff about having good looks and being sexy took secondary position to being able to walk without pain,” she has said. Then she went on a crusade to speak up and raise funds and awareness for RA, earning a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work from the Massachusetts Arthritis Foundation. “It is important to me that people know they have options so they can get some relief from this debilitating disease,” she has said, noting that early treatment is key to managing the disease.
The controversial Irish singer walked away from her career in 2003, in large part because she suffered from fibromyalgia. She took the time to reveal how this syndrome has debilitated her life saying that fibromyalgia has no cure but is manageable. “You get to know your patterns and limits, so you can work and plan around it.” O’Connor, who also has bipolar disorder, manages to juggle her career and raising four children—noting that her high pain threshold and ability to lower her expectations that her life be “perfect” help take the pressure off herself to feel good all the time.
As a quarterback with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, David Garrard is used to pain. He recalls the first time he experienced a pain like no other. “[In football], you get hit, you get up and keep going. But I’d never felt anything like the pain that ripped through my gut that January afternoon in 2004.One minute I was sitting in my lounge chair at home watching TV, the next minute I was doubled over.” Crohn’s disease could have prevented him from living his dream of being a starting quarterback. When the pain started and he underwent surgery to remove a section of his diseased intestines, Garrard was a backup quarterback. Six weeks later he was on the field again, practicing hard, getting back into game shape. Then he had the opportunity to step in as the starting quarterback and throw a game-winning touchdown pass. Five years later, his Crohn’s is under control. “It might flare up again, but I’m not worried. … It’s like I tell kids who share my disease: You might have Crohn’s, but it doesn’t have you. Don’t let it keep you down. Go and live your dream.” Pain does not discriminate. Everyone and anyone can be affected. Celebrities and chronic pain accentuates this point. Sharing stories and ways of coping – famous or not – helps in learning and understanding. Thankfully many celebrities use their status to speak out and be advocates for their conditions. Sources and more information at ABC News.com, Prevention.com, Guideposts and ModernMom.com.
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