Sunday, November 4, 2007

We need a celebrity to "admit" to having lupus

I'm literally sick and tired. I have lupus. And the last thing I need is to hear that annoying fictitious doctor tell all of America (and Britain) that "It's not lupus. It's never lupus."

For millions of people around the globe, it *is* lupus. All day, every day, it's freakin' lupus. Pain, fatigue, even organ failure and death.

We need a successful celebrity to "come out of the closet" and "admit" to having Lupus. It has been so helpful in terms of public awareness and removing stigma from diseases such as Parkinson's (Michael J Fox, Kathryn Hepburn), Cancer (long list here, including Sheryl Crow and Lance Armstrong), Muscular Dystrophy (Jerry's kids- as in Jerry Lewis' annual telethon).

Recently, Oprah revealed she has a thyroid problem, and told folks she had been fighting fatigue and weight gain as a result. Apparently, this is a big deal in Hollywood, as celebrities keep illness a big secret. Bad for the image. And probably also makes it hard to get work.

As a "local celebrity" myself (a performing songwriter and humorist), I also have been hiding my diagnosis of lupus for most of the time since I've been diagnosed (1992). I have since discovered several other peers in the world of acoustic music who actively tour and are very secretive about their chronic illnesses.

Why? 2 reasons, i believe. 1) you don't want people to look at you and see the disease. you want them to look at you and see you, or your art, or you through your art. 2) fear of not getting hired because folks are afraid you wont' make it to the gig.

Something like a major diagnosis makes for great gossip fodder and does the equivalent of getting on the front page of The National Enquirer, even for us minor celebrities. Even if your fan base is only 100 or 100 or 10,000 people, if you're on stage, it's the same issues as if you were Oprah, just on a smaller scale.

I keep hoping some big celebrity will come out and talk about having lupus. So far here's what I've discovered:
1) Flannery O'Connor, fantastic writer, died of lupus in 1964.
2) Rapper/ Music Producer J Dilla/Jay Dee died of lupus in Feb 2006
3) Sharon Stone did an auction of fancy handbags to raise funds and awareness for lupus. her sister has lupus. This only sort of counts, because it's much easier to admit publicly to your sister's illness than your own. You just look like a healthy saint, rather than a famous sufferer.
4) James Garner (the Rockford Files) has a daughter with lupus (not Jennifer Garner). see #3.
5) Anna Nicole Smith may have had lupus. That would explain a lot. And would certainly put a very bad light on her tanning habit, worst thing you can do with lupus.
6) Michael Jackson may have lupus- but probably just the skin lupus, as opposed to systemic, which affects all organs.
7) Mary McDonough, "Erin" from "The Waltons." Ironically, she was asked to be celebrity spokesperson for the Lupus Foundation, even though she did not have Lupus. She later developed lupus.
http://www.the-waltons.com/lupus.html
8) I nearly forgot about Millie the dog, of White House fame from George HW Bush I era (1988-1992)- yes animals also get lupus (and cancer, and leukemia, and AIDs).
9) Seal (the singer) had discoid (skin) lupus (same as Michael Jackson), which explains the scars on his face and also his hair loss. Fortunately, bald is a perfectly good look on him...
10) Richard Dreyfuss' first wife
11) Mercedes Yvette, runner up on season 2 of America's Top Model
12) Backstreet Boy Howie D's sister, Caroline, died from lupus
13) Wayne Newton's sister-in-law
14) American Idol contestant (2007) Leslie Hunt, who made it to the top 20 finalists. I think it was quite a risk for her to come out and talk about having lupus before she made it to say the top 4 or 10. But then, if she had waited, she may have been voted off before she had a chance to say anything. Kudos to you, Leslie, for getting so far while living with lupus, and for not being afraid to talk about it.
15) Dani Miura, Actress, To Catch a Predator (she played the 11-year old "bait" on 3 episodes, where they go after sexual predators)

It's a start. But I'm not sure how much press an author who died 4 decades ago, someone's sister, someone's daughter, and the former White house dog are going to get. And having an alleged pedophile and a Penthouse drug-addicted flake on your side (God bless her soul) is not so helpful in lending legitimacy to this awful, ravaging, painful, serious disease. Most of us are treated like we're hypochondriacs for the first year or so of our illness, until they finally figure out what we have. Even Anna Nicole hid her diagnosis, and did not want it revealed, even after her death, as she "did not want to be remembered that way."

I think we need someone with credibility and direct experience with the disease to come out and say "This is real, people."

I'm not famous, but I'm trying to do my tiny part by "coming out" and talking about it.
But what if someone really charismatic, someone loved by the public like Oprah or Steven Colbert or Will Farrell or Jennifer Aniston (God forbid- I do not wish this illness on any of them!) were to come out and talk about trying to maintain a career while struggling with lupus? (probably won't happen, because I'm not sure it's possible to maintain that kind of schedule if you have lupus! but if you developed lupus *after* becoming famous- then came out publicly- like Michael J Fox did with Parkinson's- that would be amazing).

Hey maybe Dumbledor will come out and admit to having lupus!
Or how about Darth Vader? or Luke Skywalker- that would be better. Darth is too misunderstood. How about Patrick of Spongebob fame? He seems to sleep a lot... (here's wishing on a "star.")

Better yet, once the writers come off strike, they need to write in "Doctor" House as having lupus. Oh yeah, that would be poetic justice.

http://www.thesingingpatient.com
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