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Lady Gaga And 7 More Celebrities On Living With Chronic Illness

In a new Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, Lady Gaga opens up about her struggle with fibromyalgia. Here, Gaga and seven more celebrities who have used their platform to explain what it’s like to cope with a chronic — and often invisible — illness.

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celebrities living with chronic illness

Lady Gaga stars in the Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two. Photo, Courtesy of Netflix.

Last week, Lady Gaga postponed the European leg of her “Joanne” world tour, announcing via Instagram that “trauma and chronic pain” are keeping her off the stage.

In a new Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, the popstar offers viewers an inside look at the debilitating pain she suffers as a result of fibromyalgia, including full-body spasms and abdominal discomfort. In one scene, we see Gaga curled up on the couch at her doctor’s office, crying in agony.

The 31-year-old is just one of several celebrities who have revealed their struggle with a chronic, often invisible, illness. In 2015, Selena Gomez revealed that she suffers from lupus; on Sept 14, the singer and actress shared a post on Instagram that showed her in a hospital bed, having just undergone a kidney transplant.

Here, Lady Gaga, Selena and six other celebrities speak publicly on what it’s like living with their chronic illnesses.

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Lady Gaga — Fibromyalgia

“I use the word ‘suffer’ not for pity, or attention, and have been disappointed to see people online suggest that I’m being dramatic, making this up, or playing the victim to get out of touring. If you knew me, you would know this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m a fighter. I use the word suffer not only because trauma and chronic pain have changed my life, but because they are keeping me from living a normal life. They are also keeping me from what I love the most in the world: performing for my fans.”
Instagram,  Sept. 2017

About fibromyalgia: A widespread disorder that cause musculoskeletal pain and fatigue along with sleep, memory and mood issues, it’s believed that fibromyalgia affects the way the brain processes pain, causing painful sensations to be amplified. There is no cure, but medications can help ease symptoms.

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Selena Gomez — Lupus

“I’m very aware some of my fans had noticed I was laying low for part of the summer and questioning why I wasn’t promoting my new music, which I was extremely proud of…I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my Lupus and was recovering… Lupus continues to be very misunderstood but progress is being made.”
Instagram, Sept. 2017

About lupus: A chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the patient’s body attacks its own tissue and organs, lupus most commonly affects the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. While the butterfly-shaped facial rash (called a malar rash) is probably the most well-known association with lupus, the rash only occurs in some patients. There is no cure, but medications can help control symptoms.

Kim Kardashian — Psoriasis

“Sometimes I just feel like it’s my big flaw and everyone knows about it, so why cover it?… Everyone with psoriasis has different symptoms; sometimes the rashes are itchy, sometimes they’re flaky. Mine flares up from time to time for different reasons,’ she explained…I’m always hoping for a cure, of course, but in the meantime, I’m learning to just accept it as part of who I am.”
—”Living with psoriasis,” a post on kimkardashianwest.com, August 2016

About psoriasis: A skin disorder that accelerates the life of skin cells, causing them to quickly build up and form scaly red patches, which can be painful and itchy, psoriasis is a chronic disease that waxes and wanes. Treatment depends on the severity of the disorder and can range from topical creams in mild cases, to immunosuppressants in more severe ones.

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Venus Williams — Sjogren’s

“The fatigue is hard to explain unless you have it…[s]ome mornings I feel really sick, like when you don’t get a lot of sleep or you have a flu or cold. I always have some level of tiredness…You almost get used to having all these symptoms. You tell yourself to shake it off. Just keep going.”
New York TimesSept. 2011

About Sjogren’s: An autoimmune disorder that affects the mucus membranes and moisture-secreting glands, Sjogren’s often affects the eyes and mouth first. It is most common in women and often accompanies other rheumatic autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment is determined by what part of the body is affected and can range from eye drops and mouthwashes to surgery to plug tear ducts (to help eyes retain moisture) in severe cases.

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Amy Brenneman — Ulcerative Colitis

“It started subtly with cramping. Then urgency. Rushing to the restroom. Weight loss. Hair loss. Visits to a homeopath, naturopath, nutritionist, acupuncturist, and massage therapist. Countless medications and ultimately surgery.”
Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation

About Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis: Diseases that causes inflammation in the digestive tract, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and even malnutrition. Complications from Crohn’s disease can be life-threatening. There is no cure, but anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as immunosuppressants, along with other drug treatments, can often help relieve symptoms.

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Lena Dunham — Endometriosis

“From the first time I got my period, it didn’t feel right. The stomachaches began quickly and were more severe than the mild-irritant cramps seemed to be for the blonde women in pink-hued Midol commercials. Those might as well have been ads for yogurt or the ocean, that’s how little they conveyed my experience of menstruating.”
Lenny Letter, Nov. 2015

About endometriosis: In endometriosis, tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus and often involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvic lining. In severe cases, this tissue can extend beyond the pelvic region. Pain medication is the most common treatment, followed by hormone treatment and surgery in more severe cases.

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Bella Hadid — Lyme Disease
“I know what it feels like to not want to get out of bed from bone pains and exhaustion and days on end of not wanting to socialize or be around people because the anxiety and brain fog just isn’t worth it.”
—In a speech at the Global Lyme Alliance Gala, Oct. 2016

About lyme disease: A tick-borne illness, lyme disease often starts as a small rash, followed by flu-like symptoms. As the disease progresses, people may develop joint pain, neurological problems, fatigue, heart problems as well as eye and/or liver inflammation. Lyme disease is hard to diagnoses, but can be treated with antibiotics — even after treatment, though, some people still suffer from muscle aches and fatigue.

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Zoe Saldana — Hashimoto’s

“Sometimes, it’s good to share little things of what your struggles are. It’s not impeding my quality of life. It just means I have to be a little more conscientious of how I live and what I put into my body because I have this predisposed situation.”
Extra, July 2015.

About Hashimoto’s disease: An autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the thyroid. The inflammation caused by this attack often leads to hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid). Symptoms can include development of a goiter, low thyroid hormone levels in the blood, fatigue, hair loss, brittle nails, unexplained weight gain and more. Treatment often includes taking thyroid hormone replacement pills.