A few weeks ago for World IBD Day, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation interviewed Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready, a national spokesperson for the organization. Not counting the time my parents took me to see Captain & Tennille in the 1970s, Pearl Jam was my first concert experience when I was 20 years old in 1993.
I didn’t learn about McCready’s struggles with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) until a decade later when I was diagnosed with the same type of Crohn’s colitis that he has. At one of my first gastroenterologist appointments, I picked up one of those free medical magazines in the waiting room. The feature article was an interview with McCready.
Although he was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 1987 when he was 21, he didn’t disclose his disease to the public until 2003. Since then, he has hosted IBD-related fundraisers and he advocates for better health insurance.
After watching McCready’s latest interview, I wondered about other celebrities with IBD and how the disease has affected their lives and careers. I discovered a long list of famous patients, but I related only to a few.
I’m like Ike: President Dwight D. Eisenhower
During Memorial Day weekend, I learned that doctors diagnosed President Dwight D. Eisenhower with Crohn’s disease in 1956. This resulted in surgery to repair a small bowel obstruction the following month. Three weeks after his surgery, Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, authorizing the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highway system that literally laid out the road map of the nation’s transportation system. Five months later, Eisenhower was reelected for a second term.
I’m in no way comparing my achievements to that of a WWII five-star general. However, the way Eisenhower went from hobnobbing with Bob Hope to having bowel surgery within hours reminded me of how I sometimes battle through Crohn’s pain to finish a project or task. Also, Eisenhower’s resilience and resolution to pass major legislation and win a presidential election less than a year after surgery gives me hope that chronic illness doesn’t have to be an obstacle in achieving my goals.
Putting the ‘B’ in IBD: Shannen Doherty
I grew up watching Shannen Doherty on television, first when she played Jenny Wilder on “Little House on the Prairie,” then opposite Wilford Brimley on “Our House,” and then as the oldest sister witch on “Charmed.” I wasn’t a big fan of “Beverly Hills 90210,” but Doherty played one of the three eponymous antagonists in “Heathers,” which I related to more as an angsty teen.
In 1999, Doherty told Star magazine that she had been living with Crohn’s since childhood. She said, “There’s nothing sexy about women saying: ‘I’ve got to go to the bathroom right now.’” I couldn’t find more information about her struggle with Crohn’s, although she talks openly about her breast cancer diagnoses.
Remembering the rumors surrounding her unpleasant attitude and unprofessional behavior during the years leading up to and following her Crohn’s revelation made me wonder. Did the disease or medications like prednisone alter her mental and emotional states, causing her to leave several successful television series abruptly?
On my Crohn’s journey, I’ve dealt with body image issues, the loneliness and frustration from people not understanding my disease, and the mood swings and irritability caused by prednisone and general malaise. I can’t imagine how much more challenging Crohn’s would be for someone in the public eye, especially a woman trying to live up to Hollywood’s standards.
‘Cooking for Real’: Sunny Anderson
When I was first hospitalized with Crohn’s in 2006, the Food Network became one of my favorite TV networks. I easily became addicted to watching Rachael Ray, Paula Deen, and other “home cooks” who shared recipes I could recreate. When Sunny Anderson’s cooking show “Cooking for Real” debuted in 2008, I added it to my cooking show rotation.
During an appearance on Ray’s syndicated talk show a few years later, Anderson announced she had ulcerative colitis. Anderson briefly collaborated with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and Janssen Biotech, the manufacturer of Remicade (infliximab) and other Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis medications, on the Get Your Full Course campaign in 2014. Although the campaign ended, Anderson offers diet and nutrition tips for IBD patients on her website.
As much as I love to cook and eat, Anderson is my dietary role model. She has shown that despite having IBD, I can eat the foods and cuisines that I love while taking care of my health and managing my disease.
I’m not alone
Anyone, regardless of race, gender, class, or social status, can have IBD. I’m in good company. With the likes of a rock star, a president, an actress, a celebrity chef, and regular people like myself, I’m not alone in battling this disease.
Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.
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