What happens when celebrities have MS? Just like most MSers, celebrities handle their MS diagnoses in many different ways.
Let’s look at two famous MS advocates who handle their activism as uniquely as they achieved their celebrity. First is Teri Garr, then Montel Williams.
Teri Garr is an actress who started as a back-up dancer in many different programs and movies, including nine films for Elvis Presley. In 1974, she appeared in the Academy Award nominated The Conversation, written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. She appeared or starred in more than 60 films from dancing to starring in critically acclaimed and box-office successes. Garr herself was nominated for an Academy Award for supporting actress in Tootsie.
Ms. Garr had guest appearances in many popular TV shows including three times hosting Saturday Night Live. She continues her work with a TV appearance in 2006, and both a short subject and a movie in 2007.
She first noticed MS symptoms in the early 80s, and had episodes as she went from one film location to another until she was finally diagnosed. This story sounds familiar to many of us who went through symptom after symptom. She publicly announced her MS in 2002, as she said, to “help people know they are not alone.” She wrote an autobiography Speedbumps: Flooring it Through Hollywood.
Not only has Teri Garr been open about her condition, she has worked very closely with the National MS Society (NMSS). She is the National Ambassador for NMSS and National Chair for Women Against MS (WAMS). She appears or participates in many activities. I remember a few years ago when she headlined a cruise billed specifically for MSers. There were doctors, nurses, and other experts to help educate the cruisers about MS as well as some MS treatments. That cruise may have been only one of several.
In 2006, Teri Garr suffered a brain aneurysm but therapy helped her regain motor skills and speech. Even with MS she was able to recover and continue working.
Montel Williams enlisted in the Marines immediately following high school. After three years as an enlisted Marine, his leadership qualities were recognized and he decided to become an officer. Montel resigned to enter the U.S. Naval Academy, graduated and then began a short stint in naval intelligence.
He began informal counseling for wives and families of the men who reported to him, then began three years as a motivational speaker. Montel Williams found a new passion, and he resigned from the Navy. He worked with teenagers, parents, educators and business leaders to inspire youth to reach their highest potential. All of that led to his Emmy- winning Montel Williams Show. He went on to work in radio, news shows, production, as an actor, to produce and host an infomercial and become a spokesperson.
In 1999, Williams was diagnosed with MS. Then his passion expanded to include helping people with MS. He began by creating a non-profit foundation, the Montel Williams MS Foundation.
In 2006 Montel Williams was named spokesman for Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), which allows low income patients to request free or reduced-price prescriptions. PPA provides access to almost 500 programs that work with low-income patients for prescriptions that treat many different ailments.
Williams talks about how important it is to take a disease-modifying drug - he does. He also openly uses medical marijuana and advocates its use to generally make living with MS and MS treatments easier. He bravely lobbies for legalization of medical marijuana in the many states.
In his motivational speaking, he has emphasized physical and emotional fitness, and that is true whether or not MS is a factor. He has written several books about Living Well.
Teri Gar and Montel Williams are two people who gained their celebrity in totally different ways, and who also treat their MS differently. Both said they want to help others with MS, and they handle being MSers in the spotlight in their own unique ways.
Links and Notes:
Cathy writes about Annette Funicello
Montel Williams. (2012). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montel_Williams.
Terri Garr. (2012). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terri_Garr.