Around 2.3 million people worldwide live with multiple sclerosis— a non-curable chronic disease targeting the central nervous system. Within that estimate reside some high-profile names, from politicians to entertainers, shedding light into this debilitating illness. Learn how they’ve used their diagnosis to inspire others, raising awareness, funds, and hope for multiple sclerosis.
Emmy Award-winning talk-show host Montel Williams has lived with MS for 13 years. In that time, he founded the Montel Williams MS Foundation, which raised $1.5 million in research grants for the disease. When asked about his symptoms, Montel said he experiences daily debilitating pain, but he’s gotten a grip on it to keep pressing forward. He credits his positive attitude as the reason he’s still going.
The Sopranos star Jamie-Lynn Sigler kept her diagnosis under wraps for 15 years until earlier this year. She revealed in an interview that the last time she was ever able to run was in the final episode of the TV series, which aired in 2007. Since becoming public, Jamie-Lynn stated, “It’s part of me, but it’s not who I am.” Trial and error treatments with medications and holistic practice keep her MS manageable.
Emmy Award-winning journalist Richard Cohen was private about his diagnosis for 31 years before his first public interview about MS. He didn’t want to be defined by his illness. However, years before his interview, people assumed he had a drinking problem due to his constant stumbling.
After a stint with colon cancer and MS complications, Cohen is now legally blind. His wife, The View host Meredith Vieira, said his persevering strength is her inspiration in life.
Real Housewives of D.C. star Michaele Salahi revealed having MS after 17 years of secrecy. During those years, people accused her of several eating disorders due to her thin frame. In truth, she kept slim to reduce MS complications. Michaele and her husband even decided against having children due to her condition. She manages her MS with a well-rounded diet and smart exercise.
Mostly known as Ozzy Osbourne’s son, reality TV star Jack Osbourne was diagnosed with MS shortly after the birth of his first child. He lost vision in his right eye temporarily, which alerted him to the problem. A few years later, Jack is the co-founder of the You Don’t Know Jack About MS website alongside Teva Neuroscience, an online resource for those newly diagnosed or with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis.
NASCAR driver Trevor Bayne became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500 in 2011. Two years later, he revealed his diagnosis of MS in the fall of 2013. Doctor’s cleared him to race, but his diagnosis forced him to take excellent care of his body in order to continue driving. Through clean eating and exercise, he’s currently symptom-free and focuses on his health and wellness while competing.
Wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Ann is a vocal advocate for mothers with MS. Her advice after raising five sons and campaigning with her husband is to take time off when symptoms flare up. Her management includes both traditional medications as well as therapeutic yoga, horseback riding, and meditative practices.
Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto first inspired audiences by beating Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1997. He initially thought his cancer returned when he went blind with tingling sensations. The subsequent MS diagnosis was an excruciating blow. Although Neil knows there’s no cure, he believes the best way to treat MS is day by day with a positive attitude. His courage and commitment have led him to be named “the best interviewer in broadcast business news” even though doctors say he shouldn’t be able to walk or talk.
Famous Disney Mouseketeer and movie star Annette Funicello starred in numerous films like The Shaggy Dog and Back to the Beach before disclosing her diagnosis publicly. Although she retired from acting shortly after her diagnosis, she started the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders to fund research resources and clinical trials for MS and other neurological diseases.
Country music star Clay Walker received a grim diagnosis from his doctors in 1996. Doctors told him he’d “be in a wheelchair in four years and dead in eight.” During that time, he could barely hold a guitar pick, much less play a guitar. However, medication has kept his MS in remission since 1998. In 2003, Clay founded Band Against MS to raise awareness and research funds, hosting concerts and forums for people with MS.
Weather reporter and co-worker to Neil Cavuto, Janice Dean first experienced her symptoms after covering the 2005 hurricane season, which included the devastating Hurricane Katrina. One morning on vacation, she woke up to numb legs unable to walk. After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with MS. Luckily, Neil Cavuto had the ability to guide her through the process at work. Janice stated she’s the happiest she’s ever been in an op-ed on multiple sclerosis.
Mostly known for her roles in Supernatural and Californication, Rachel Miner is a darling at Comic-Con gatherings across the U.S. She divulged her hardships with multiple sclerosis to a live audience, which sparked inspirational support from her fans ever since. Fundraising groups sprouted up in support of this actress and MS.
Academy Award nominee Terri Garr is an ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. She experienced strange symptoms for years before a proper diagnosis in 1999. Now, she uses a healthy diet, a wicked sense of humor, and medication to treat her MS. She urges people diagnosed with MS to learn all they can about the disease to help with their symptoms.
Wife of NBA star Grant Hill, Tamia made a place for herself in R&B music. This singer-songwriter was diagnosed at 28 but credits her husband’s healthy lifestyle for her wellness. She noted that her second pregnancy helped decrease MS symptoms, but postpartum flare-ups occurred in the first weeks after her delivery. She encourages women diagnosed with MS to keep a positive attitude and lifestyle as she raises her own family.
Singer-songwriter Victoria Williams’ diagnosis became a beacon of hope and support for others with MS. In 1993, fellow musicians Lou Reed and Pearl Jam recorded Sweet Relief, an album to help raise funds for her medical expenses. Shortly after, Victoria founded Sweet Relief Musicians Fund to help others struggling with health problems from MS.
Alan and David Osmond
This father and son duo are known for their melodious pipes, but musical talents weren’t the only thing running in the family. Early in Alan’s career, he stumbled onstage several times, which prompted a medical evaluation. He had multiple sclerosis. After the diagnosis, he stated, “I may have MS, but MS does not have me.” Almost 20 years later, his son was also diagnosed, and together they help raise awareness for the National MS Society.
Noah ’40’ Shebib
Producer and collaborator Noah ’40’ Shebib works with artists like Drake to create mesmerizing music. His early symptoms included feeling like his leg was “on fire,” which led to his diagnosis in his early twenties. Now he’s an advocate for people with MS, encouraging them by saying the disease won’t stop him. “I’ve got this disease. I’m going to live with it. I’m going to win with it.”
Country western queen Donna Fargo took time off after her prominent rise to fame once she began to experience an array of strange symptoms. She suffered from severe back pain, left-sided numbness and tingling, and muscle spasms. Multiple sclerosis was relatively new to doctors in the ’70s, so it took some time for a diagnosis. Donna’s treatment included resting and listening to her body. In the meantime, she continued to write and perform, releasing her latest single in 2008.
Scores of Laverne and Shirley fans knew David for his distinctive Squiggy character. Like many other celebrities, he kept his MS diagnosis a secret for 15 years. Now that he’s spoken publicly on the matter, he offers words of advice and encouragement about living with multiple sclerosis. David also became an ambassador for the National MS Society after revealing his diagnosis in 1999.
Another country music star, Hal Ketchum is very open about his multiple sclerosis. He says that being able to talk to other people about his trials is therapeutic for him. For Hal, he’s prioritized friends and family over the limelight because it’s what’s important to him. Concerts and tours took a backseat to his health and wellness as he wrangled his MS back into remission.
Will Cullen Hart
Musician and composer Will Cullen Hart is known for his bands Olivia Tremor Control and Circulatory System, both of which came to a halt in the early 2000s due to his MS. Will describes his challenge to let his disease be his excuse in an interview with Pitchfork. He stopped drinking and started taking his health seriously, and he’s now reunited Olivia Tremor Control and gotten his MS under control.
No one said multiple sclerosis was easy. However, these celebrities demonstrate perseverance to empower research for this debilitating disease. Their commitment to raising awareness and providing insight into their own daily struggles has provided another thread of hope in the fight against MS.