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Celebrities Battling Illness

Some famous folks have to cope with disease, too

We sometimes think they lead charmed lives, far removed from anything painful or ugly, but celebrities can wage war with disease just like us normal folks. Here’s what some of your faves are dealing with and how they’re coping.
Missy Elliott—Graves’ Disease
The prolific Missy Elliott all but disappeared from the music scene five years ago because she was suffering from Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. The Grammy-winning artist/producer said the symptoms made it hard for her to hold a pen to write. After taking medication for a while, and losing 30 pounds, Elliott is now managing her disease through diet and exercise. And she’s back on the music scene.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—Migraines
Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says stress is the reason he suffers from migraines. He had his first severe headache at age 14, and has used a variety of stress relievers, including acupuncture, yoga, massage and biofeedback. “You can’t eliminate stress,” he says, “but what I’ve finally been able to do is learn how to manage it.”
Former pro footballer Terrell Davis, singer Janet Jackson and 2013 French Open winner Serena Williams also have migraines.
Vanessa Bell Calloway—Breast Cancer
Stage, screen and TV actress Vanessa Bell Calloway recently talked about her battle with breast cancer. The former dancer says she always exercised and ate healthy food. And she got annual mammograms and Pap smears. Four years ago, however, she says something felt off in her body. Breast cancer “was the last thing on my mind because since the age of 40, my mammograms came back clear,” she told
Diagnosed with ductal carinoma in situ, an early stage of breast cancer, Bell Calloway had a mastectomy and reconstruction. She’s been cancer free for the past four years.
Halle Berry—Diabetes
Halle Berry was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 20 years ago when she slipped into a coma while shooting “Living Dolls.” It was later learned the now-pregnant Oscar-winning actress was probably misdiagnosed and that she actually has type 2 diabetes, which she manages with diet and exercise.
Toni Braxton—Heart Disease and Lupus
After fainting while performing in a Broadway show in 2003, Toni Braxton found out she had pericarditis, an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart. In 2008, she was diagnosed with microvascular angina, also known as small vessel disease. In 2010 the singer revealed that also has lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease that affects joints, skin and organs.
Nick Cannon—Lupus
The 32-year-old “America’s Got Talent” host tweeted from the hospital that he was in mild kidney failure in January 2012. Eventually he revealed he’d been diagnosed with a form of lupus that affects the kidneys. Cannon says he has scaled back his busy schedule, though he announced recently that he’s bringing back “Soul Train.”
Lil Wayne—Epilepsy
When Lil Wayne was admitted to the hospital in critical condition in March after suffering three seizures in a row (and last October for the same reason), the media speculated his health scare might be linked to his constant consumption of cough syrup. But the chart-topping rapper revealed in a Power 106 radio interview that he suffers from epilepsy, and that he’s had “a bunch of seizures” the public never hears about.
Emmitt Smith—Gout
The former NFL running back and “Dancing With the Stars” winner is one of about 8 million Americans who suffer from gout, a painful form of inflammatory arthritis. “There’s a perception that gout is an old man’s disease. But I’m 44 and a former athlete, and I have it,” Smith told Everyday Health’s Sanjay Gupta, M.D. “There’s no telling how many people are walking around in pain and just think it’s an ache or a sprain.”
Gout occurs when a high level of uric acid in the blood forms crystals in joints and surrounding tissue. Complications include kidney stones, joint deformities and cardiovascular disease. Several factors can raise your risk for gout, including certain foods (shellfish, red meat, sugary beverages and alcohol), a family history, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. The disease is most common in men older than 40. There’s no cure, but medication and lifestyle changes may keep its effects under control. “I started monitoring the things I eat and increased my water intake. Exercise definitely can help,” Smith says.
Montel Williams—Multiple Sclerosis
In 1999, daytime talk show host Montel Williams announced that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a debilitating autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. One of the primary symptoms of the disease is chronic pain, which Williams said he’d had for 10 years by the time he made his announcement.
Singer Tamia has multiple sclerosis, too.
Venus Williams—Sjogren’s Syndrome
The tennis star withdrew from the U.S. Open in 2011 due to symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own moisture-producing glands (tear, saliva and sweat glands). The disease, which affects about 4 million Americans, causes debilitating joint pain, numbness and fatigue. Williams is being treated, but there is no cure.

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