Multiple sclerosis is a devastating neurological disorder affecting millions of Americans, and others around the world. When a celebrity has such a debiliting condition, they may not be so eager to share it publicly for fear of negative reactions – perhaps even loss of employment opportunities. There are those celebrities, however, who choose to reveal their MS condition. They’re a brave symbol of hope for those who have it, and those concerned in caring for those who endure such a terrible hardship.
You may know him now more for his TV infomericial work, but Montel Williams hosted a talk show during the TV talk show boom of the 1990’s, which lasted for him till 2008. Faces like Sally Jesse Raphael and Ricki Lake shared airtime along with Montel to roast and coast with hot and weird topics of the day. Montel was a Marine Corps drill instructor, something he credits with helping to stave off the symptoms of his MS. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, Williams created a non-profit foundation promoting research and education.
On Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, master business analyst Neal Cavuto dishes out the dirt on dollars and a dwindling or dynamic economy. Cavuto was a columinst for years and now he’s one of the highest rated business anchors on cable television. On his condition, Cavuto says, “I fought back a near-life-ending cancer, only to end up with multiple sclerosis years later. Doctors have since told me that the odds of contracting both diseases in the same life are something like two million to one! Yet here I am, marching on, continuing to do my job when doctors who’ve examined my scans and MRIs tell me I shouldn’t be walking or talking.”
Known for her roles in the classics “Mr. Mom” with Michael Keaton and “Tootsie” with Bill Murray and Dustin Hoffman, Terri Garr usually plays the hapless girlfriend or stable wife. Perhaps Garr’s greatest and funniest role was opposite Gene Wilder in Mel Brook’s “Young Frankenstein”, where she played the youthful Frankenstein’s love interest. Garr provoked laughter as a regular on David Letterman’s show for years – so much so that rumors of them dating floated liberally. In 2002, Garr opened up about her condition, and said, “I’m telling my story for the first time so I can help people. I can help people know they aren’t alone and tell them there are reasons to be optimistic because, today, treatment options are available.”
She’s acted in dozens of movies and on TV, but she’s perhaps best known to Star Trek fans as Khan’s (Ricardo Montalbhan) passionate love in the classic episode, “Space Seed”, also starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Rhue also played Montalban’s wife in a 1960 episode of the beloved western TV series “Bonanza.” Rhue survived for 26 years with MS – having been diagnosed in 1977 and then passing away in 2003 of pneumonia at 68.
She was a fresh faced Mickey Mouse club member and the perky beach blanket girl, who went on to become the sun washed icon of a slew of beach party movies. Annette Funnicello, perhaps more than any other star, epitomized the American mythos of fun in the sun with your buddies, a roaring, fiery BBQ and a cooler full of cold drinks beside you. Funnicello kept her condition secret until 1992, the same year that Disney inducted her as a Disney Legend. In 1993, she opened the Annette Funicello Fund For Neurological Disorders At the California Community Foundation.