11 Celebrities with Multiple Sclerosis
Famous names, infamous disease
There is no cure for multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease in which the immune system attacks the nerves. The condition is also difficult to predict: Some people with MS have trouble walking or talking, while others have milder symptoms that flare and subside.
MS is difficult no matter who you are, and celebrities face additional challenges of keeping up public appearance and being up front with fans, along with sometimes demanding schedules and stressful working conditions—both known triggers for MS flare-ups.
Here are 11 people who have spoken out about living with MS, and how they cope with it.
Ozzy and Sharon's son was diagnosed with MS at age 26, just weeks after he became a first-time father. People reported in June, 2012 that Osbourne first sought medical attention for sudden vision problems: "All of a sudden a black dot appeared in my vision ... The next day I woke up and the dot had turned into a cigar shape," Osbourne told the magazine. “After three days I knew it was bad. I couldn’t see anything in front of me with my right eye—all I could see was my peripheral vision."
Osbourne’s doctors put him on prescription medication and urged him to adopt a healthier diet, which have helped improve his symptoms and reduce his risk of complications from the disease.
Real Housewives of D.C. star (and alleged White House party crasher) Michaele Salahi kept her MS diagnosis a secret from the public for 17 years, finally revealing it in a book written about her in 2010.
Salahi, who has faced accusations of an eating disorder, told People that she stays "very thin" to reduce the risk of MS complications, and that she and her husband decided against having children because of her condition.
In 2011, Salahi was slated to appear on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab, seeking help in managing her MS and related stress. Producers turned her away from the show, however, because she did not have an addiction or substance abuse problem.
Emmy-winning TV producer—and husband to NBC correspondent Meredith Vieira—Richard Cohen was diagnosed with MS at age 25. He went on to marry Vieira and have three children, but health issues have put a strain on their otherwise happy marriage, she told Ladies Home Journal in 2010. "We used to run together and go on ski trips or go to the beach," she said. "Now, it's very hard for Richard to stand."
Cohen has also had two bouts of colon cancer, and is legally blind. His autobiography, Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir ($6-17; amazon.com), was published in 2004.
The talk-show host experienced intermittent MS symptoms, such as tingling in his feet and loss of balance, for years before being officially diagnosed in 1999. Later that year, he told People that the stress of the disease caused him to almost take his own life.
Williams fought back, however, with a rigorous workout schedule and medication injections to slow the disease’s progression. In recent years, he has attributed his good health to juicing, green smoothies, and lots of fruit and vegetables. His charity, the Montel Williams MS Fund, has raised more than $1.5 million for research toward a cure.
The R&B singer and wife of NBA star Grant Hill was diagnosed with MS in 2003, but says living with a professional athlete helps her concentrate on eating a balanced diet and staying in shape, which have improved her overall health.
In 2007, she told The Young, Black and Fabulous that being pregnant with her second daughter improved her symptoms, as well. "When a woman is pregnant, all her symptoms of MS subside," she said. "But you have to be careful because after you give birth, there’s a higher rate of attacks."
David and Alan Osmond
Children whose parents have MS have a higher than average risk of developing the disease themselves—as is the case with David and Alan Osmond, nephew and brother (respectively) of the famous Donny and Marie.
Alan managed the family’s traveling musical act for years and performed with his brothers until the late 1980s, when his MS symptoms caused him to step backstage as a producer. His son, David, who was diagnosed in 2006 at age 26, grew up performing with his own brothers as The Osmonds 2nd Generation, and appeared on American Idol in 2009.
She became famous as a spunky song-and-dance performer, first on the Mickey Mouse Club and then alongside Frankie Avalon in Beach Party films of the 1960s. But during the late '80s, as she teamed up with Avalon for a reunion tour, Funicello began experiencing symptoms that would soon change the way the world saw her.
"We'd be shooting a scene on the sand, and when I'd try to get up, I couldn't balance," Funicello told People in 1992. We'd laugh about it, and Frankie would say, "Look at you, you look like you've had too much to drink." Funicello went public with her MS diagnosis in 1992 amid rumors about her failing health, and a year later, founded the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases.
The wife of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney led a hectic life during the election year—and she told NBC’s Rock Center that a flare-up of her MS symptoms during the primaries was a “reminder that I can’t keep up the pace."
Romney was diagnosed with MS in 1998 after experiencing dizziness and what she referred to as “the MS fog, the real foggy brain.”
One of the hottest country western stars of the 1970s, Donna Fargo was sidelined by strange symptoms—numbness in her left side, severe back pain, and tightening in her leg muscles—after her initial rise to fame. When she was finally diagnosed with MS in 1978, doctors were just beginning to understand the disease.
The most common treatment at the time was rest, and so Fargo gradually learned to "take things easier physically and not get involved in more than I can do easily," she told People that year. She continued writing and performing, however, releasing her most recent single in 2008.
In June, 2012, Fox News Channel’s senior vice president of business news and host of Your World with Neil Cavuto had some choice words for an MSNBC anchor who questioned Ann Romney’s passion for riding horses as a therapy for her MS. "Check your facts before you joke about it," he said on his show, citing support for "hippotherapy" from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and other organizations.
Cavuto himself has suffered from MS for more than 15 years. "When it’s really bad, my shoulders can't move, my head is spinning, I can’t feel my arms or my legs," he told People in 2002.
Acress Selma Blair revealed her MS diagnosis in October 2018 in an emotional Instagram post, where she revealed she has “probably had this incurable disease for 15 years at least.” Since revealing her condition, Blair has used social media to share updates about her condition and revealed that she has experienced symptoms of the disease since her son was born seven years ago.
"Ever since my son was born, I was in an MS flare-up and didn't know, and I was giving it everything to seem normal," Blair said. "I was self-medicating when he wasn't with me. I was drinking. I was in pain. I wasn't always drinking, but there were times when I couldn't take it."