We often think of celebrities as being larger than life. But fame does not make them immune to life’s problems, and this includes health issues. Thyroid disease is no exception. However, since thyroid conditions are often accompanied by weight struggles, mood changes, hair loss, skin issues, and other less-than-desirable symptoms, many stars who are careful to portray a certain image are hesitant about sharing this diagnosis with the public. You don’t have to look far, though, to find celebrities who have been courageous and humble enough to disclose their thyroid struggles and even a handful who have gone a step further to bring awareness to the disease or advocate on the behalf of other thyroid patients. Here we highlight a few stars who we applaud for opening up about their thyroid diagnosis.
One of the most influential women in the world, Oprah Winfrey, was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 2007 and attributes her weight struggles to her thyroid problems. Although she did not disclose many details about her treatment at the time, simply making the diagnosis known to the public helped bring awareness to thyroid disease due to her widespread fame and influence through her popular talk show and other media outlets. Oprah did assert that stress played a role in the development of the disease.
In 2015, former First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State, and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, released her medical records to the public. This is a common practice for presidential candidates. When her records revealed that she has hypothyroidism and treats it with natural dessicated thyroid instead of the common mainstream treatment, levothyroxine, it stirred some chatter and controversy among medical professionals and fellow hypothyroid patients. Natural dessicated thyroid contains both T3 and T4 thyroid hormones, as opposed to T4-only levothyroxine. Secretary Clinton’s choice of treatment brings awareness to the public and hope for those who want to explore non-traditional treatment options that have proven to be more effective than traditional treatment for many thyroid patients.
Famous fitness trainer from the reality T.V. show “The Biggest Loser” has been open about her struggle with weight and hyperthyroidism. While this may come as a surprise for many, Jillian’s struggle highlights the important role of diet and exercise in the management of thyroid disease and offers encouragement and motivation to others. It is admirable that a celebrity who holds an image of health and fitness can be transparent about her thyroid condition.
Iconic singer and songwriter Rod Stewart talked with USA Today about his experience with thyroid nodules back in 1999-2001. At first, it was thought that his nodules were benign, but further tests revealed some malignancy which resulted in a thyroid removal. The British rock star spoke candidly about the emotional toll of a cancer diagnosis. Thankfully, he had a full recovery. We think Rod Stewart is a true rock star because of his honesty about his thyroid cancer and his self-proclaimed commitment to raising awareness about the disease.
The sitcom “Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara had a scare with thyroid cancer at the age of 28. She told WebMD that is was a traumatic experience because of having a young son at the time of her diagnosis and reports having educated herself by reading books on the topic (during a time when google searching was not an option!). Due to her thyroidectomy, she now lives with medically managed hypothyroidism but is cancer-free. Sofia serves as the spokesperson for a campaign called “Follow the Script” that encourages thyroid patients to be consistent with their treatment.
Through her appearance on VH1 and an interview with People magazine, rapper Missy Elliott set the record straight about her health after her thyroid diagnosis in 2008. Missy assured fans that she was recovering well from the autoimmune thyroid condition known as Graves’ disease. She spoke about her symptoms at the time of onset, which included hair loss, mood swings, and other nervous system problems. This is important because it helps to educate the public about the signs of this serious thyroid condition that is less talked about than hypothyroidism.
American Idol contestant, Jax, took to Instagram to tell her thyroid story and stated, “I am pretty sure that my thyroid is more important than my actual brain.” It turns out that her emotional (and other) symptoms were due to undiagnosed Hashimoto’s and thyroid cancer. Coming out with her story on social media was a bold step in bringing awareness to the fact that thyroid cancer can occur in younger people as well as older individuals.
Gena Lee Nolin
Baywatch and Sheena star, Gena Lee Nolin, is probably one of the most vocal celebrities when it comes to thyroid disease. Gena went many years with symptoms before being correctly diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism. Her experienced motivated her to start a Facebook group called “Thyroid Sexy” and co-author a book with thyroid advocate, Mary Shomon.
This former rock star of the group TNT successfully beat thyroid cancer in 2009 and later appeared in advertisements for the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists in order to share his story and help educate others about the warning signs of thyroid cancer. The advertisements coincided with America’s Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month.
Catherine Bell is a British-American actress who starred in the hit T.V. show JAG. She is also a thyroid cancer survivor and has served as a spokesperson for the Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association. Catherine was only in her 20s when she was diagnosed and stands out because she “wears” her thyroidectomy scar like a badge of honor.
From reading these stories, it’s clear that celebrities are just as human as anyone else, with real health struggles and the emotional and social repercussions that go along with them. These stars and many others have chosen to be “real” by sharing their stories or advocating in some way in order to increase awareness and improve the quality of life of thyroid patients. It is refreshing to see their honesty and know that their efforts will go a long way in positively influencing people’s lives.