14 Famous People Who Kept Their Health Battles Secret

Many celebrities have chosen to keep their medical conditions hidden from the public eye.

Health troubles can be complicated and scary, so for most people, they are best dealt with privately.

While celebrities can often be quite open about many other aspects of their lives, health-related issues can be a different story.

Many of these entertainers push forward despite their secret diagnosis, continuing to work on their upcoming projects without anyone knowing the harrowing experiences they are going through. This was true of Chadwick Boseman, who filmed several major films all while battling colon cancer. Fans only found out about his struggle after his unfortunate passing last month.

For others, they are thankfully able to persevere and open up about their health issues in their own time. Celebrities like Selena Gomez, Michael J. Fox and Emilia Clarke have gone on to support and aid others who are battling their same ailments.

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1. Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman kept his battle with colon cancer a secret after being diagnosed in 2016.

Despite his fight against the disease, Chadwick didn’t let it impact his career. Between chemotherapy and surgeries, he continued work on many films.

Eventually, the disease progressed to stage IV and Chadwick lost his battle with cancer, with fans only finding out about his diagnosis after his death.

“It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther. He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side. The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time,” his team said in a statement.

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2. Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez revealed her lupus diagnosis back in 2015, but what came as a shock to many fans was her kidney transplant in 2017. It wasn’t until months after the procedure, during which her friend Francia Raisa donated her a kidney, that the public became informed about Selena’s life-or-death situation.

“I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my Lupus…It was what I needed to do for my overall health…There aren’t words to describe how I can possibly thank my beautiful friend Francia Raisa. She gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me. I am incredibly blessed. I love you so much sis,” Selena wrote on her Instagram.

3. Emilia Clarke

“Game of Thrones” star Emlia Clarke suffered two brain aneurysms between 2011 and 2013 but didn’t tell fans about the harrowing experience until just last year.

After her first aneurysm, which can cause immediate death in a third of those who experience them, she required immediate surgery to save her life. Emilia quickly returned to work but then suffered another aneurysm in 2013. After several terrifying procedures, Emilia is thankfully doing better today.

“Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life…I now have a hard time remembering those dark days in much detail. My mind has blocked them out. But I do remember being convinced that I wasn’t going to live,” Emilia wrote in The New Yorker.

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4. Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne struggled with Lyme disease but didn’t open up about why she was shying away from the spotlight until 2015 when she was on the road to recovery. After her diagnosis, the condition left her bedridden for five months, during which her mother moved in to care for her.

“I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t move. I thought I was dying…There were definitely times I couldn’t shower for a full week because I could barely stand. It felt like having all your life sucked out of you,” Avril told People.

Thankfully, Avril is doing better today and is helping other families affected by the disease through the Avril Lavigne Foundation.

5. Alan Rickman

“Harry Potter” star Alan Rickman had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but fans didn’t find out until after his passing. During his battle, Alan reportedly made public appearances at charity events and social gatherings, before passing in 2016 surrounded by family and friends.

6. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003 but didn’t open up about his battle until 2004, as he did not want to alarm employees, investors and others who had a stake in Apple.

Steve’s health battle that followed was kept relatively under wraps as rumors swirled about his condition. Steve took medical leave of absences from Apple to seek various treatments, including a liver transplant in 2009. Then in August of 2011, he resigned as CEO of the company.

“I have always said that if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come,” Steve said in a company email.

Unfortunately, Steve passed away just two months later.

7. Cobie Smulders

Cobie Smulders was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her early 20s, but didn’t open up about her battle until she had been cancer free for five years. During her fight against cancer, she underwent multiple surgeries, all while continuing to work on “How I Met Your Mother.”

“Now that I’m five years out, I’m trying to think of it as a positive thing and what can I learn from it. And if I can create more awareness, I’ll do it,” Cobie told Women’s Health in 2015.

8. Christina Applegate

Christina Applegate revealed her breast cancer diagnosis with fans in 2008, but not until after she underwent a double mastectomy. Christina didn’t even tell many colleagues on the set of “Samantha Who?” after returning to work post-surgery.

“I told my make-up and hair people and people that are really close to me just so I had a protection wall so that no one was pushing me,” Christina explained on “The Ellen Show.”

In 2017, Christina additionally revealed that she had gotten her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.

9. Michael C. Hall

Michael C. Hall was told he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma back in 2010 while he was filming the fourth season of “Dexter.” Michael didn’t let his co-stars know about the diagnosis until after the season wrapped and he went on to undergo chemotherapy. Michael went public with the news when he realized his different appearance at award shows might concern some fans.

“I had every intention of keeping it quiet. But because the award shows were imminent I thought I’d make a statement,” Michael said, according to The Telegraph.

Michael has now fully recovered.

10. David Bowie

Fans were shocked by David Bowie’s passing in 2016 but he had privately been battling liver cancer for 18 months. David only let his closest friends and family know about the diagnosis as he worked on his final album “Blackstar.”

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11. Robin Williams

Robin Williams privately struggled with health issues for some time before dying by suicide in 2014.

While many thought his actions revolved around depression, his wife Susan later explained that the couple had been trying to diagnose Robin with a condition that was causing his brain to deteriorate. Before his death, they believed it to be caused by Parkinson’s disease but later learned he had been dealing with Lewy body dementia.

“Robin and I knew there was so much more going on. Robin was right when he said to me, ‘I just want to reboot my brain.’ In that moment, I promised him that we would get to the bottom of this. I just didn’t know that would be after he passed,” Susan said on Today.

12. Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 but didn’t share his struggle until 1998 after finding the right medication and undergoing brain surgery.

“It’s not that I had a deep, dark secret. It was just my thing to deal with. But this box I had put everything into kind of expanded to a point where it’s difficult to lug around. What’s inside the box isn’t inhibiting me. It’s the box itself. I think I can help people by talking. I want to help myself and my family,” Michael told People at the time about why he had waited to tell fans.

Since then, Michael has dedicated his life to advocating for others who have Parkinson’s and for finding a cure.

13. Kathy Bates

Kathy Bates beat cancer twice, but kept things under wraps the first time she was battling the disease. In 2003, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer but was advised not to tell anyone and continue working.

“I was advised to [do so]. I was contracted to go into a movie at that time, ‘Little Black Book’ with Brittany Murphy, who I miss very much. My doctors at the time, they had to get insurance approval and all of that so I was very quiet about it and had to go back to work right away,” Kathy told Anderson Cooper.

Then in 2013, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. This time she told fans and has since become an ambassador for the Lymphatic Education and Research Network.

14. Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014 but didn’t share his battle with fans until 2016. After having surgery, he was able to be labeled cancer free just three months later. He credits his recovery to early testing that wasn’t required and caught the cancer before it could progress.

“The PSA test is the only early screener for prostate cancer and, right now, the United States Preventative Services Task Force does not recommend to take the test…If I hadn’t taken the test — my doctor started giving it to me at 46 — I would not have known,” Ben said on The Howard Stern Show.


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