Top 10 Diseases Made Famous by Celebrities

We may sometimes scoff when celebrities start promoting causes, or trying to raise awareness of certain situations or diseases, but the truth of the matter is that in some cases we may not even be made aware that something exists without a little celebrity intervention. When it comes to somewhat rare diseases, the issue becomes even more obscure for many. The bottom line is that the fame that celebrities have can shed light on diseases that you might not have heard of. And if you, or someone you love, ends up with that disease, you’ll probably be glad if a celebrity, somewhere, is willing to bring his or her clout to the cause. Here are 10 diseases made famous by celebrities:

  1. NIH-lancearm2Testicular Cancer (Lance Armstrong): Very people were willing to talk about testicular cancer before Lance Armstrong came along. However, when Lance Armstrong, the famous road racing cyclist, admitted that he suffered from the disease, the condition achieved instant celebrity. Armstrong’s determination to continue excelling at his sport, and his subsequent record-breaking, seventh win at the Tour de France, provides inspiration for cancer survivors everywhere. Since then, Armstrong has become more than a spokesman bringing awareness of testicular cancer; he has started his own foundation, the Live Strong Foundation, for all types of cancer research, and single-handedly started a fashion trend for rubber bracelets to raise awareness of a cause.
  2. CouricColorectal Cancer (Katie Couric): Katie Couric is known for her former role on the “Today” show, as well as for being the first female anchor for a network nightly news program. But she is also known for bringing colorectal cancer to light. It took her many years after her husband’s death to begin speaking about colon cancer, but she began to become more outspoken as her pain began to heal. She put together a special series for the “Today” show on colon cancer, and continues to be a spokesperson for the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, which she helped found. The alliance is one that focuses on efforts to get the entertainment industry involved in spreading the word about this common, but not often talked about, cancer.
  3. 180px-KiKi_ShepardSickle Cell Disease (Kiki Shepard): A little-known disease that affects predominantly black women is sickle cell disease. In order to bring awareness to this disease, Kiki Shepard routinely holds a celebrity bowling event to raise funds. Shepard is known as the long-time co-host of the television program “It’s Showtime at the Apollo.” She is also known as the “Queen of Fashion” in some circles. She has done acting and voice acting as well. Sickle cell disease falls into main types, including Sickle Cell Anemia, Sickle-Hemoglobin C Disease, Sickle Beta-Plus Thalassemia and Sickle Beta-Zero Thalassemia. Shepard’s bowling evening routinely brings out such stars as Tatyana Ali, James Pickens, Jr., Loretta Devine and DJ MC Lyte.
  4. 215px-Michael_J_Fox_in_1988_croppedParkinson’s Disease (Michael J. Fox): This degenerative disease did not get a lot of play on the national airwaves until Michael J. Fox revealed that he suffers from the disease. This is a disease that eventually results in the inability to move, and it also results in an inability to communicate clearly. There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are treatments that can slow its progression. Michael J. Fox made drew even more attention to Parkinson’s — and created a controversy — when he appeared in ads about the disease and stem cell research, as well as appearing before Congress to give testimony, without taking the medication that keeps his tremors in check. He did so in order to provide a visual of what Parkinson’s disease does to the body.
  5. 200px-Gehrig_croppedAmyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (Lou Gehrig): You probably still haven’t heard of ALS. But that’s because, for the most part, no one calls it that anymore. Instead, you probably know ALS as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. At the time that Lou Gehrig had to stop playing for the Yankees, due in part to the ravages of ALS, he was one of the most well-known and beloved public figures. As a result, the entire diseased was sub-titled with his name. The ALS Association still works to raise funds to help those with the disease, and ease the symptoms. Like so many other diseases, there is no cure for ALS, but there is hope that Lou Gehrig’s Disease might some day be defeated.
  6. 256px-Oprah_Winfrey_(2004)Thyroid problems (Oprah Winfrey): Many of us are unaware of the gland in the body known as the thyroid gland. It is large as endocrine glands go, but you would probably be unimpressed by its size. It is located in the front part of the neck. The thyroid and its gland can cause a number of problems, including issues with weight. In 2007, Oprah Winfrey brought awareness of thyroid problems to the forefront by sharing that she had been diagnosed with a thyroid gland problem. While there are different reasons for thyroid problems, the bottom line is that once this is identified, many health and weight problems can be better managed.
  7. 300px-Jorge_PCraniosynostosis (Jorge Posada): Jorge Posada is one of the best loved and recognizable players for the Yankees baseball team today. He has been acknowledged a great catcher and a fairly consistent hitter. Posada also has a child affected by craniosynostosis. This disease is defect of the brain that involves closure, prematurely, of the joints between the joints of skull. Surgery can be used to help alleviate the problem, but it is expensive. Posada set up a foundation designed to help provide emotional support and financial assistance to families affected by this problem.
  8. 180px-TomHanks1989Neuroblastoma (Tom Hanks): One of the most devastating diseases that affects children and infants is neuroblastoma. This is a type of cancerous tumor that attacks nerve tissue. The disease can cause a number of issues, including abdominal swelling, rapid pulse and breathing problems. Surgery can be attempted in order to help the condition, and other therapies are available. Tom Hanks has long been a spokesperson for raising awareness of neuroblastoma on behalf of the James Fund. Hanks was inspired by a young boy’s fight with neuroblastoma (which ended with his death at the age of eight), and wrote the forward to a book authored by the boy’s father.
  9. 225px-Montel_Williams_by_David_ShankboneMultiple Sclerosis (MS) (Montel Williams): One of the reasons that multiple sclerosis (MS) is so well-known today is due to the efforts of former talk show host Montel Williams. When Williams shared that he was afflicted with MS, it managed to become more prominent on the national scene. Williams started his own foundation dedicated to fighting MS, and providing funding for organizations and research that attempt to find a cure for the diseases and look at ways to slow the disease. He also wrote a book about his fight with the disease. MS is one of those diseases that cannot be cured, but that can be countered with certain lifestyle choices and actions to help slow the effects of progress.
  10. 250px-DougflutieAutism (Doug Flutie): We hear about autism quite a bit these days. But it wasn’t always that way. Diagnosis of autism, and the recognition that there are different forms of the condition, have made leaps since Doug Flutie, Jr., the football player, first started a foundation in an effort to help his autistic son, and others like him. Autism has since become more recognized, and a number of conditions have been put on the “autism spectrum”. Flutie’s foundation provides emotional and financial support for families who are affected by autism. Without Flutie’s efforts, autism may not have the resources that it has today.

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