As fans it’s easy to idolize celebrities, but like the rest of the world, even the famous aren’t immune to serious ailments. In a world where social media is constantly reminding us of every celeb’s personal details, it makes since that actors and musicians would want to distance themselves from the public in troubling times, especially when it could be detrimental to their health.
As much as audiences like to think they've got the scoop on every aspect of a celebrity’s life, the truth is not every detail surfaces online. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood have managed to slip a few secrets under the radar, often leaving fans shocked when the truth is unveiled.
In the case of the celebrity cases on our list, many of the illnesses covered up by these performers ended with a happy recovery while others left us in total devastation.
Although we often like to perceive the celebrity world as a catering industry for our own personal entertainment, the truth is many of the talented people on this list helped us escape from everyday life when we needed it most. Luckily, not all the people presented on our list suffered significantly from their illnesses, but for those who did, their work continues to give joy to the lives of those going through similar problems.
.Here are 18 Celebrities Who Hid Their Illnesses from the Public.
18 MICHAEL J. FOX TURNED TO THE BOTTLE TO HIDE HIS PROBLEMS
Although Michael J. Fox’s most recognized on-screen work may be playing Marty McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy, he’s perhaps more know today for his role in activism through the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease shortly after experiencing early symptoms while filming Doc Hollywood in 1991, Fox battled a brief stint with alcohol dependency. By 1998, he had ditched the bottle and came out publicly with his health problems.
As some with a disease which attacks the central nervous system, Fox deals with constant uncontrollable movement which he manages with the drug carbidopa/levodopa. During public interviews and media tours, Fox has famously opted to not take his medication in order to show the severity of his tremors.
Today, Fox still stars in the occasional television role, though he’s admittedly dedicated his time to a greater cause.
17 SELENA GOMEZ BATTLED LUPUS
Starting as a child actor, Selena Gomez became a public figure when she found success on the Disney Channel series Wizards of Waverly Place. She’s come a long way since then, releasing multiple albums as a musical artist as well as breaking away from her good girl image with films like Spring Breakers.
In 2015, after months of dealing with her diagnosis, Gomez opened up about her years-long battle with lupus. In 2017, she underwent a kidney transplant thanks to her friend Francia Raisa who donated her kidney. According to Gomez, her health had become so severe that she entered a stage of denial, though she later came to accept her situation which ultimately saved her life.
Luckily, the talented singer is feeling more like herself these days, though she’s quick to remind everyone just how thankful she is to have her health back.
16 EMILIA CLARKE SECRETLY WENT INTO A MANHATTAN HOSPITAL AFTER SUFFERING A BRAIN ANEURYSM
Unlike her character on Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke has managed to live a relatively quiet life outside of work. The Mother of Dragons who once ate a horse heart to win over the respect of the Dothraki is actually a privately kept person, but in 2013, near the end of finishing the show’s third season, the actress gave many fans a scare when she was checked into a hospital in Manhattan after suffering a brain aneurysm.
The story was first reported by the National Enquirer. The occurrence was a rare one given Clarke was only 26 at the time and most early aneurysm cases don’t happen until around 40 years of age. Still, the actress seems to have made a full recovery and has the full support of her fans who wish her a long, healthy career ahead.
15 MICHAEL C. HALL FILMED A WHOLE SEASON AFTER BEING DIAGNOSED WITH HODGKIN'S LYMPHOMA
At age 39, Michael C. Hall's father passed away from prostate cancer, a fact which the actor admits has played a role in his choice of projects. The star of shows like Six Feet Under and Dexter has always played characters that dealt with themes of death and despair, but Hall faced a shocking diagnosis when he discovered he had Hodgkin's lymphoma.
During the filming of the fourth season of Dexter in 2010, the actor found out about the illness. He kept everything under wraps from his co-stars until the season was done filming, after which he underwent chemotherapy and eventually went into full remission. At the Golden Globes later that year, he could be seen sporting a bald head as a consequence of his treatments.
Today, Hall is still in movies, and seems to be in much better health.
14 AVRIL LAVIGNE SPENT FIVE MONTHS IN HER BED AFTER DEVELOPING LYME DISEASE
In the early 2000s, Canadian pop punk star Avril Lavigne charted the Billboard top 100 with her debut album Let Go. Her post-grunge influences and tomboyish looks brought a new sound to the world of female empowerment and helped the singer-songwriter launch a career that's lasted for over a decade. Although she has matured since her teen years, she’s kept a fan base as she continues to churn out music.
In 2015, Lavigne opened up about a health scare which left her bedridden for five months. After days of feeling unusually exhausted, the singer was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Her condition became so severe that she would often go a full week without bathing because she couldn’t stand on her own.
With help from friends and family, Lavigne eventually made a full recovery, though she has said the experience taught her to always appreciate life.
13 ALAN RICKMAN MADE A BUNCH OF APPEARANCES WHILE BATTLING PANCREATIC CANCER
To younger generations, Alan Rickman will forever be known as the sardonic but skillful Severus Snape who terrorized Harry Potter during his time at Hogwarts, but the legendary British actor graced the screen for many years prior with films like Die Hard and Sense and Sensibility.
To the surprise of many, Rickman passed away suddenly after losing a brief but tragic battle with pancreatic cancer.
The actor had become aware of his diagnosis but was unaware how severe his symptoms had become. According to close friends and relatives, he remained upbeat in his demeanor despite being given few years to live. Reportedly, the 69 year old actor had appeared at many social gatherings, including multiple charity events, before suffering from a slight stroke and passing shortly after.
12 CHARLIE SHEEN DIDN’T TELL HIS PARTNERS ABOUT THIS ONE
Charlie Sheen’s Hollywood career has been a tale of ups and downs. Following in the footsteps of his father Martin Sheen, he saw success early on in critically lauded films like Platoon and Wall Street before finding a place in television. Addiction would ultimately derail his career, however, as he began to act more out of character, causing him to take an early exit from his hit series Two and a Half Men.
In 2017, Sheen opened up about another sad truth which he had hidden from the public. For four years, he had struggled with an HIV positive diagnosis which he claims people used to try to extort money from him. Since his diagnosis, Sheen has admitted to contacting all of his previous partners to inform them of his condition and has said he feels he’s carrying the torch for all those with the virus.
11 JAMIE-LYNN SIGLER DEALT MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS THROUGHOUT HER TIME ON THE SOPRANOS
As the smart, partying teenage daughter to New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano, Jamie Lynn Sigler found fame in the hit HBO crime drama The Sopranos. Although she's mostly still remembered for playing Meadow on the Emmy-winning series, Sigler also appeared for a while on another hit HBO series, Entourage. She's since been limited to smaller supporting roles in both film and television, and now we know why.
In 2016, Sigler announced that she had been dealing with multiple sclerosis for most of her life. She was first diagnosed while still filming The Sopranos and has had problems with fatigue, stiffness and vision ever since. Most often, Sigler has complications with her right side, right leg, and bladder, though she swears that healthy exercise and dieting have kept her sane through the years.
Today, she is happily married to baseball player Cutter Dykstra, but admits that some days are better than others.
10 COBIE SMULDERS THANKFULLY GOT PAST OVARIAN CANCER
Today, Cobie Smulders’ life seems to be on the up and up. The former How I Met Your Mother star has found success in the movie world since ending her nine year stint as Ted Mosby’s long-time love interest. More recently, she’s starred in the Netflix show Friends from College.
Although the actress can be seen kicking butt in projects like the MCU, her biggest battle happened off screen when she faced a scary ovarian cancer diagnosis.
The news came in 2008 when Smulders was still filming HIMYM. According to the actress, the diagnosis caused great anxiety and led her to seek alternative treatments. After multiple surgeries as well as visits with crystal healers, she was eventually given a clean bill of health. The actress is now embracing the scars left from her treatments and is happy to admit that the experience has given her a newfound ambition.
9 CATHERINE ZETA-JONES’ STRESS OVER MICHAEL DOUGLAS DIDN’T HELP HER BIPOLAR DISORDER
From comical turns in films like Intolerable Cruelty to toe-tapping performances in musicals like Chicago, the stunning Catherine Zeta-Jones has impressed audiences with her filmography since 1990. Married to actor Michael Douglas, the Oscar-winning actress has had it rough in recent years after dealing with her husband’s fight with own health struggles (more on that later) as well as her own diagnosis of bipolar II disorder.
Similar to bipolar type one, those affected by bipolar II disorder experience moods cycling between high and low with the exception that the person in question never reaches full-blown mania when having an episode. After Zeta-Jones endured a great deal of stress brought on by her husband’s health, she decided to check into a health facility to deal with her mental illness.
Today, she’s managing her disorder well as she continues to showcase her talents in projects, like her most recent movie Cocaine Godmother.
8 ROSEANNE BARR LIVES WITH BOTH MACULAR DEGENERATION AND GLAUCOMA
Beginning as a stand-up comedian, Roseanne Barr didn’t hit the peak of her stardom until 1988 with the premiere of the sitcom Roseanne. The self-titled comedy depicted a low-income, blue collar family and broke standards for what the typical American television family should look like. In 2012, Barr took a break from Hollywood to run for President of the United States under the California-based Peace and Freedom Party and it was during the premiere of a documentary about the failed presidential campaign that she revealed some recent health issues.
According to Barr, she suffers from both macular degeneration and glaucoma, which effect both her central and peripheral vision. Unfortunately, both issues will ultimately leave her blind, though she doesn’t seem to be letting it control her. Instead, she’s taking full advantage of the time she has left which includes revisiting the sitcom that made her famous.
7 KATHY BATES BATTLED CANCER TWICE
With roles in films like Misery and Titanic, Kathy Bates has lit up the screen with strong-willed female characters, but in 2003, the Academy Award-winning actress found herself in a fight against ovarian cancer that distanced her from the public eye.
Years later, she would recall her traumatic discovery. While working under contract for a new movie, she experienced trouble eating as well as bleeding. The shock of the diagnosis kept her in silence, but today she’s outspoken about her unfortunate health scare.
In 2012, after recovering from ovarian cancer, Bates was diagnosed with breast cancer, only this time she shared her secret on Twitter for those struggling with similar news. She ultimately opted for a double mastectomy and today she is an ambassador for the Lymphatic Education and Research Network. They help to fight and prevent lymphedema, which effects 30% of breast cancer survivors.
6 DAVID BOWIE RELEASED AN ALBUM ABOUT HIS LIVER CANCER AND FANS HAD NO CLUE
An innovative and acclaimed figure of the music world, David Bowie brought an influential sound to the stage with his signature pop glam style. Selling an estimated 140 million albums worldwide, the singer-songwriter was working on his final album Blackstar while sadly dealing with a fatal liver cancer diagnosis. The album has since been interpreted as the requiem he wrote for himself in his final few months.
Diagnosed in 2014, Bowie battled his illness for 18 months before passing away two days after the release of his final opus, which coincided with his 69th birthday. His passing would come as a complete surprise as only his closest friends and family were informed of how sick the artist had become.
After his sudden death, makeshift memorials were set up in London, New York City, and Berlin to honor the legacy he left behind.
5 MICHAEL DOUGLAS BLAMED THE WRONG PEOPLE FOR THIS ONE
As the son of veteran screen actor Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas followed in his father’s footsteps with a prolific film career, hitting his stride in the '80s and throughout the '90s with movies like Fatal Attraction, Wall Street and Basic Instinct.
Despite surviving a recent health scare which could have cost him his tongue and jaw, the esteemed performer unfortunately made headlines after sticking his foot in his mouth about how he contracted his illness.
Diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2010, Douglas told the media that he was diagnosed with throat cancer to save his career. According to the actor, he didn’t want anyone knowing he could potentially lose his jaw. After his recovery, he would later anger many fans after attributing the cancer to HPV contracted from his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones. He would later apologize for his comment, though many still remember the crude remark.
4 PEOPLE SPECULATED ROCK HUDSON HAD A DIFFERENT ILLNESS
A heartthrob of the silver screen during the Gold Age of Hollywood, Rock Hudson found success in films like All That Heaven Allows and Giant. As a closeted gay man, Hudson kept his life secret throughout most of his career, battling multiple claims from the tabloids. In the 1980s, after years of speculation, Hudson succumbed to complications which arose from an AIDS diagnosis at the age of 59.
At the time of Hudson’s illness, he was spotted out in public visiting his former co-star Doris Day at the launch of her new show Doris Day’s Best Friends. Rumors began swirling about the actor’s deteriorating health, though it was reported that he had inoperable liver cancer.
At a time when few people knew anything about AIDS, Hudson became the first major celebrity to die from the disease. Today he remains an iconic figure for Hollywood and the LGBTQ community.
3 FREDDIE MERCURY WAS ONE OF THE FIRST HIGH PROFILE CELEBS WITH THIS DISEASE
As the first major rock star to die from AIDS, Freddie Mercury has become an historical figure in the medical advancement of the autoimmune disease that claimed the lives of many in the 1980s. The flamboyant Queen frontman wowed audiences with his wide genre of musical stylings and has remained a defining songwriter and musician with songs like Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are the Champions.
In April 1992, the year following his death, the remaining members of Queen founded The Mercury Phoenix Trust, which has raised millions for further research for AIDS and HIV. Since his passing, the singer’s popularity has grown as he’s become more of an icon in the LGBTQ community as well as the musical world.
Later this year, a biopic titled Bohemian Rhapsody depicting the artist’s life is set to hit theaters, with actor Rami Malek portraying Mercury, showcasing just how beloved the singer has always been.
2 GENE WILDER WAS OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT AS HE WENT HIS STRUGGLE WITH ALZHEIMER'S
After Gene Wilder's passing, an emotional Mel Brooks recalled experiencing the genius mind of his late friend while filming Blazing Saddles. Wilder came up with the idea for Brooks’ favorite film Young Frankenstein while on set and according to Brooks, Wilder completely took over the project with his ideas and performance.
In his last few years, Wilder stayed away from the spotlight as he dealt with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. His wife Karen later admitted that Wilder kept his humor throughout the troublesome times, recalling one situation in which the actor attempted to pull himself up after a fall and looked out as if addressing the audience at the Belasco Theatre, stating, “Just a minute folks. I’ll be right back.” Tragically, Wilder’s disease kept him from the media in his last years, but the Willy Wonka actor remains a timeless comedic performer remembered for the roles he left behind.
1 ROBIN WILLIAMS WAS DEALING WITH A LOT BEFORE HE PASSED
As a versatile funny man and dramatic actor who brought joy to millions over the course of his nearly four decade career, Robin Williams became one of cinema’s most cherished performers. In 2014, after reports of the actor suffering from years of depression, he tragically took his own life, but it wasn’t until after his death that his late wife Susan revealed that her husband had a severe case of Lewy body dementia.
In a harrowing editorial published in the journal Neurology, Susan Williams said the actor was aware that his brain was slowly disintegrating, though he had believed it was from early signs of Parkinson’s disease. According to her, the actor’s symptoms became so bad that he couldn’t remember lines while filming his movies and he often experienced episodes of paranoia.
Sadly, it wasn’t until after his autopsy that the cause of his behavior was revealed to the public.