Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in various organs. Symptoms can range from mild to severe to even nonexistent depending on the individual. Common early symptoms include:
- joint stiffness
- skin rashes
- thinking and memory problems
- hair loss
Other more serious symptoms can include:
- gastrointestinal problems
- pulmonary issues
- kidney inflammation
- thyroid problems
According to The Johns Hopkins Lupus Center, around 1 in 2,000 people in the United States have lupus, and 9 out of 10 diagnoses occur in women. Early symptoms can occur in the teenage years and extends to adults in their 30s.
Although there is no cure for lupus, many people with lupus live relatively healthy and even extraordinary lives. Here is a list of nine famous examples:
1. Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez, American actress and pop singer, recently revealed her diagnosis of lupus in an Instagram post that documented the kidney transplant she needed due to this disease.
During flare-ups of lupus, Selena has had to cancel tours, go on chemotherapy, and take significant time off from her career to get well again. When she is well, she considers herself very healthy.
2. Lady Gaga
Although having never shown symptoms, this American singer, songwriter, and actress tested borderline positive for lupus in 2010.
“So as of right now,” she concluded in an interview with Larry King, “I do not have it. But I have to take good care of myself.”
She went on to note that her aunt died of lupus. Although there’s a higher risk for developing the disease when a relative has it, it’s still possible for the disease to lie dormant for many, many years — possibly the length of a person’s lifetime.
Lady Gaga continues to focus public attention on lupus as an acknowledged health condition.
3. Toni Braxton
This Grammy Award–winning singer has openly struggled with lupus since 2011.
“Some days I can’t balance it all,” she said in an interview with Huffpost Live in 2015. “I just have to lay in bed. Pretty much when you have lupus you feel like you have the flu every day. But some days you get through it. But for me, if I’m not feeling well, I tend to tell my kids, ‘Oh mommy’s just going to relax in bed today.’ I kind of take it easy.”
Despite her multiple hospital stays and dedicated days to resting, Braxton said she’s still never let her symptoms force her to cancel a show.
“Even if I can’t perform, I still figure it out. Sometimes I look back [at] that evening [and] I go, ‘How did I get through that?’”
In 2013, Braxton appeared on the Dr. Oz show to discuss living with lupus. She continues to be monitored regularly while still recording and performing music.
4. Nick Cannon
Diagnosed in 2012, Nick Cannon, a multitalented American rapper, actor, comedian, director, screenwriter, producer, and entrepreneur, first experienced severe symptoms of lupus, including kidney failure and blood clots in his lung.
“It was super scary just because you don’t know… you’ve never heard of [lupus],” he said in an interview with HuffPost Live in 2016. “I knew nothing about it until I was diagnosed.… But to me, I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been before.”
Cannon stresses how important diet and taking other precautionary measures are to be able to forestall flare-ups. He believes that once you recognize that lupus is a livable condition, it’s then possible to overcome it with certain lifestyle changes and maintaining a strong support system.
This award-winning English singer/songwriter first showed signs of a specific type of lupus called discoid lupus erythematous at age 23 with the emergence of facial scarring.
Although he’s not as outspoken about lupus as other celebrities living with the disease, Seal often talks about his art and music as a means through which to channel pain and suffering.
“I believe that in all forms of art there has to have been some initial adversity: that is what makes art, as far as I’m concerned,” he told an interviewer at The New York Times in 1996. “And it’s not something you outlive: once you experience it, it’s always with you.”
6. Kristen Johnston
Diagnosed at age 46 with lupus myelitis, a rare form of lupus affecting the spinal cord, this comedic actress first showed signs of lupus when struggling to climb a flight of stairs. After 17 different doctors’ visits and months of painful tests, Johnson’s final diagnosis allowed her to receive treatment with chemotherapy and steroids, and she achieved remission six months later.
“Every single day is a gift, and I don’t take one second of it for granted,” she said in an interview with People in 2014.
Johnston now practices sobriety after many years battling alcohol abuse and drug addiction.
“Everything was always masked by drugs and alcohol, so to go through this terrible experience it’s — I don’t know, I’m just a really happy human being. I’m just very grateful, very grateful.”
In 2014 Johnston also attended the 14th Annual Lupus LA Orange Ball in Beverly Hills, California, and has since continued to speak publically about the severity of her disease.
7. Trick Daddy
Trick Daddy, an American rapper, actor, and producer, was diagnosed years ago with discoid lupus, although he no longer takes Western medicine to treat it.
“I stopped taking any medicine that they was giving me because for every medicine they gave me, I had to take a test or another medicine every 30 days or so to make sure that medicine wasn’t causing side effects — dealing with kidney or liver failure… I just said all together I ain’t taking no medicine,” he said in an interview with Vlad TV in 2009.
Trick Daddy told the interviewer he believes that many lupus treatments are Ponzi schemes, and that instead he continues to practice his “ghetto diet,” and that he feels wonderful, having had no recent complications.
8. Shannon Boxx
This Gold-medal-winning American Olympic soccer player was diagnosed in 2007 at age 30 while playing for the U.S. National Team. During this time, she began showing repeated symptoms of fatigue, joint pain, and muscle soreness. She announced her diagnosis publically in 2012 and began working with the Lupus Foundation of America to spread awareness of the disease.
Before finding the right medication to tame her symptoms, Boxx told an interviewer at CNN in 2012 that she would “will herself” through her training sessions and later collapse on the couch for the remainder of the day. The medicine she currently takes helps to control the number of potential flare-ups, as well as the amount of inflammation in her body.
Her advice to others living with lupus:
“I believe it’s very important to have a support system — friends, family, the Lupus Foundation, and the Sjögren’s Foundation — that understands what you are going through. I think it’s important that you have someone who understands that you can feel good a majority of the time, but are there for you when a flare-up happens. I also believe it’s important to stay active, whatever level of activity feels comfortable to you. I hope this is where I have inspired people. I haven’t let this disease stop me from doing the sport that I love.”
9. Maurissa Tancharoen
Diagnosed with lupus at a very early age, Maurissa Tancharoen, American television producer/writer, actress, singer, dancer, and lyricist, experiences chronic severe flare-ups that attack her kidneys and lungs, and also inflame her central nervous system.
In 2015, wanting to have a baby, she worked closely with her rheumatologist on a plan to attempt to have a child after two years of maintaining her lupus in a controlled state. After multiple scares and a long hospital stay during her pregnancy to keep her kidneys functioning properly, she gave birth early to a “little miracle” named Benny Sue.
“And now as a mom, a working mom,” she told an interviewer at the Lupus Foundation of America in 2016, an organization she and her husband strongly support, “it’s even harder because I could care less about myself. But if I’m not healthy, I’m not my best self for my daughter. I’m not going to miss some incredible milestone by resting for a half hour. That’s something I have to do for her and my husband.”