The press reported en mass, via a cover story on People magazine, that pop rock singer Avril Lavignehad spent much of last year severely ill and that she’d been diagnosed with Lyme Disease. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t move. I thought I was dying,” the star was quoted as saying to People. In her interview with People, she also said: “I had to fight… I had doctors tell me I was crazy and they didn’t want to test me. I had to learn about it completely on my own.”
Welcome to the sad, frustrating world of Lyme patients and those with chronic illnesses in general. And while Lyme is a horrible illness for anyone, famous or not, to have to endure, celebrities like Lavigne are fortunate in that generally speaking they have the innate resources and support system to tackle the problem early on and, in some cases, attain a partial or full recovery. Once acute Lyme becomes chronic Lyme, however, it is far more difficult to treat and even having a lot of money doesn’t guarantee recovery. The good news for all, however, is that on the rare occasion a celebrity comes out with the illness it raises public awareness. And when said celebrities speak of their suffering the public is more likely to become compassionate towards others who have it.
In recognition of this silver lining, here are 19 celebrities, including Lavigne, who either have or have had Lyme disease. The range of their short-term versus long-term suffering varies but we have included them without partiality.
Former actress-fashion entrepreneur Ashley Olsen is the latest celebrity, since Lavigne’s own announcement, to be reported to have a chronic case of Lyme that may have been the cause, at least partly, for her retreat from the public eye since 2012.
According to RadarOnline.com, an anonymous insider has stated that Olsen’s condition is progressively getting worse:
“Her symptoms have gotten worse… She’s had to take a step back from her business. She used to be in the office all the time, but lately she’s often just not well, so she rests a lot at home. She’s really having a difficult time. […] She’s really struggling, and it comes out in anger — she’s at the point where she’s having a hard time dealing. She just seems all-around cranky. Between her pain and her exhaustion…”
One celeb who has been quick to publicly offer her sympathies and support to Lavigne is Debbie Gibsonwho was diagnosed with Lyme in 2013. In her own interview with People (which is, intentionally or not, becoming one of the media outlets most helpful to Lyme awareness), Gibson talked about some of the pain and cognitive difficulties that often afflict those with Lyme:
“My back kept going out, I couldn’t lift my head sometimes. My boyfriend said I was mixing up words in my texts. It really got into my cognitive skills. I took crazy amounts of antibiotics, including doxycycline. It killed so much stuff in my body that I became a shell of myself.”
Although People reported last year that Gibson has made dramatic improvement, her tweet to Lavigne suggests she’s not entirely out of the woods yet.