Lyme disease is an illness that can strike anyone, regardless of their background, including some very well known celebrities.
It’s a sobering fact that chronic illness can happen to anyone, even the rich and famous. While there’s always hope for making the most out of life, it’s still the reality that no one is safe from life-changing illnesses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that around 476,000 Americans are diagnosed or treated for Lyme each year, so it makes sense when you think about it. Even so, we sometimes mistakenly think of celebrities as being ‘above it all.’
Celebrities with Lyme disease sometimes face tough judgment
It’s true that celebrities often live enviable lives, but they’re also under intense scrutiny almost every day. There’s no slipping out to the store in your oldest sweatpants without somebody snapping a photo. That means on their worst days, when the symptoms of Lyme disease can be their hardest, they often also face criticism from the media or even their fans for perceived failures. Imagine if paparazzi were following you around when you felt your worst!
Chronic and “invisible” illnesses like Lyme can be easily misunderstood, celebrities with Lyme disease are often misunderstood, that means. As we’ll reveal below, that means people sometimes struggle with accusations of being lazy, or even of using drugs when they’re really just suffering from a disease.
The point of this article isn’t to bring you down, however, but to point out that if you have Lyme or know someone with it, you might have something unexpected in common with one of these famous people.
Alec Baldwin reveals Lyme disease on podcast
Alec Baldwin talked about the pain and suffering caused by recurring Lyme disease during a June 2021 podcast appearance.
Baldwin recalled how Lyme can come on suddenly and painfully during the recent episode of the podcast “Hypochondriactor,” which is hosted by the actor Sean Hayes and doctor / comedian Priyanka Wali. Baldwin told the duo that chronic Lyme disease symptoms have left him bedridden for days, and can come on quite unexpectedly, as he recalled:
“August of one summer I was standing on my friend’s porch at night, and it was a cool evening—it wasn’t a hot steamy evening—and I felt literally this wave go over my back and over my shoulders and kind of wrap around me like a chill, and I got just attacked. It came like someone snapped their fingers and put a spell on me.
The symptoms have recurred in several summers since that incident. As a result of his struggles with Lyme, Baldwin said he worries about letting his kids play outside during the warm summers where his family lives in the Hamptons, New York. He also explained that he’s supported Lyme research and education through the Bay Area Lyme Foundation.
Lyme disease almost ruined Shania Twain's singing career
After released her incredibly successful album "Up!" in 2012 and touring to support it, Shania Twain would not release another album for another 15 years. It turns out Lyme disease almost destroyed her singing career.
It turns out she contracted the disease while on tour, later recounting seeing a tick on her body. But she didn't immediately connect the tick bite with the spells that left her so dizzy during the tour that she "almost fell off the stage every night," according to a podcast interview for the UK paper The Sun.
"It's just one of those things you don't suspect," she recalled.
Lyme disease ended up damaging the nerves around her vocal cords, leaving her unable to sing or even raise her voice.
"I could speak but I couldn’t yell," she said. "I could never yell for my dog or my son or whatever."
Though she continued to write music, she thought her singing career was over, until she triumphantly returned in 2017. "Now," the album released that year, debuted at number 1 on the Billboard music charts.
Justin Bieber’s double diagnosis
Last year, the ultra-popular musician Justin Bieber started talking about his struggles with two chronic illnesses: Lyme disease plus a chronic case of mononucleosis, a very rare condition.
In an Instagram post in January 2020 , he confessed the pain caused by people’s criticisms added to the physical suffering caused by the illnesses. Though the post is no longer available online, USA Today quoted Bieber as saying the following:
"While a lot of people kept saying Justin Bieber looks like [expletive], on meth etc. they failed to realize I've been recently diagnosed with Lyme disease, not only that but had a serious case of chronic mono which affected my, skin, brain function, energy, and overall health."
He went on to reveal more about his life in the intimate docu-series “Justin Bieber: Seasons,” which appeared last year as a YouTube original.
“you can learn all that I've been battling and OVERCOMING!!" he wrote in that original post on Instagram.
As big fans of overcoming ourselves, it’s inspiring to see what Bieber can accomplish despite his illness, regardless of whether you’re a superfan of his music.
Avril Lavigne, a real Lyme disease warrior
We wanted to round out our list of celebrities with Lyme disease with one of the most well-known, and most active supporters of Lyme disease research and education, Avril Lavigne.
This Canadian singer, songwriter, actress and philanthropist got diagnosed with Lyme disease just after her 30th birthday in 2015. Since then, she’s worked to raise awareness and directly contributed to battling the disease through her work with the Global Lyme Alliance. Last year, she made her only live appearance during the pandemic at a special “#FightLyme” online concert.
In an essay about the concert on the Global Lyme Alliance website, writer Jennifer Crystal revealed that hearing from Lavigne gave her a tremendous sense of solidarity with the millions of people that have struggled with Lyme.
“it made me realize an important fact about Lyme disease: it doesn’t discriminate,” she wrote, adding:
“Celebrities get Lyme. Every day folks get Lyme. Kids get Lyme. Pets get Lyme. Ticks don’t care who you are.”
It also gave her hope that “celebrities who have been impacted by tick-borne illness are helping to speak up” for everyday people like her.At Overcome, we also believe in speaking up for people with Lyme and other chronic illnesses. For the past two years, Overcome donated 1% of profits to the Global Lyme Alliance. We’ll be donating 1% of our profits to Lyme disease research and education again in 2021.
Diseases like Lyme can be unpredictable and hard to cope with. We also know that, with a little help and support, you can overcome and do more. We hope understanding what some celebrities go through can offer you knowledge on your own journey towards wellness.