Famous people with IBD
by Karen PallaritoCrohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that can be incredibly challenging. In Crohn’s disease, a rogue immune system attacks the digestive tract, causing inflammation and tissue damage.
Crohn’s disease symptoms include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and fatigue. Like many autoimmune diseases, symptoms tend to cycle, getting worse during flare-ups and then subsiding.
Here are 11 people who achieved celebrity for their deeds—not their Crohn’s disease diagnosis—and how they dealt with the condition.
ABC News correspondent McFadden first experienced the excruciating pain of Crohn’s disease, which her friends euphemistically dubbed “George,” in her sophomore year of college.
“They weren’t going to say, ‘Did you have 15 diarrhea attacks today?’” the journalist says in a 1994 Peoplemagazine interview. “So, instead, they’d ask me, ‘How’s George?’”
After a bout of internal bleeding in 1979, she had 15 feet of intestine removed. McFadden, who now works to raise awareness about the disease with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), has been mostly in remission ever since.
Fritz, one of the stars of the History Channel’s reality series American Pickers, is an antiques treasure hunter who has battled Crohn’s for more than a quarter century.
“Crohn’s is like a duck,” he toldCrohn’s Advocate magazine. “Ducks look calm, floating quietly on the surface of the water, but underneath they are paddling like crazy. It’s the same for people with Crohn’s—on the outside you can’t really tell, but I’m working really hard to stay in control as much as I can.”
Rocker McCready, the lead guitarist for Pearl Jam, considers himself a lucky man, despite having Crohn’s disease. In 2007, he told BigButtRadio.com that he is blessed to make a living doing what he truly loves.
“I went public with my condition to show people that despite the disease, you can still have a life and career,” he said in a statement.
When Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback Garrard began to have severe stomach pains after meals, he knew something was amiss.
“I just thought I had a stomach virus,” he says in a 2005 New York Times interview. “It was three months before I asked anyone to check me out.”
In 2004, doctors removed 12 inches of Garrard’s intestine and put him on a treatment plan to help him regain weight and return to the gridiron. Garrard is now the spokesperson for CCFA’s campaign, In the Zone for Crohn’s, which raises money for research.
Mary Ann Mobley
The Brandon, Miss., beauty was crowned Miss America in 1959. Three years later, as Mobley’s acting and singing career began to take off, she developed Crohn’s disease.
“It is a dreadful disease for the fact that it affects so many people emotionally,” she told the Saturday Evening Post in a 1994 interview. “I remember before I went into remission having a two-year-old daughter and wanting to get up to do things with her and simply not having the energy to get up from the bed and go to the sofa in the den.”
Fox’s teen drama Beverly Hills, 90210 catapulted this Memphis-born actress to stardom in the early 1990s.
Doherty told Star magazine in 1999 that she had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. However, she has kept many of the details of her battle under wraps, reportedly claiming it’s not sexy for a woman to say, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom right now.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
The 34th president of the United States was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1956 and required surgery for the condition just six months before his reelection bid. “Ike,” who served as supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, won a second term despite his public battle with heart and gut problems.
George “The Animal” Steele
His given name is William James (Jim) Myers, but professional wrestling fans know him as George “The Animal” Steele. His career in the ring spanned more than two decades, culminating in his induction into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in 1995.
Steele’s fight with Crohn’s disease began in 1988. He says he regained his health after a 2002 surgery to remove his colon.
In 2004, doctors confirmed that Boston Mayor Menino’s recurring intestinal woes were caused by Crohn’s disease. The Democrat, the city’s longest-serving mayor, fell ill after downing peanuts and Cracker Jack at a Red Sox game in 2004. He was hospitalized for abdominal pain.
In 2009, at age 67, he was elected to his fifth four-year term.
For stand-up comedian and actor Morrison, wrenching gut pain and profuse diarrhea aren’t just symptoms, they’re grist for comic genius. His one-man show, Pain in the Butt (also known as Pain in the Ass), explores “the lighter side of Crohn’s disease.”
Morrison, seen on MTV’s Punk’d and NBC’s Last Comic Standing, was diagnosed with Crohn’s in his senior year of high school.
The Canadian right wing struggled with Crohn’s disease throughout his 19-year National Hockey League career, particularly in the early years after his 1987 diagnosis.
Dineen, now coach of the Florida Panthers, tells USA Hockeymagazine that the disease was “a real eye-opening experience” because there’s no quick fix. “This is a chronic, debilitating disease that’s with you for life,” he says. “It took me a couple of years to come to grips with that.”