9 Famous People Who Have Ulcerative Colitis
While it’s long been considered taboo to speak out about digestive problems, more and more, inspiring celebrities are raising their voices about living with ulcerative colitis (UC), a form of inflammatory bowel disease. From celebrity chefs to actresses and rock stars (including Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds, shown here), UC touches the lives of the famous (and Instagram famous), too. Read on to learn about nine famous figures with UC who didn’t let their condition stop them from pursuing their dreams.
Amy Brenneman has starred in “NYPD Blue” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” among other acting credits. But did you know this successful TV actress battles UC? Amy has even worked with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation to help raise awareness of her condition, and she’s extremely open about her story with IBD: "Years ago, my doctor told me there was a surgical solution, but I thought, I will never do that," she told the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. "But surgery ended up being what healed me."
A superstar celebrity chef on shows like “The Kitchen” on Food Network, Sunny Anderson also struggles with UC. She was diagnosed at age 19, but she hasn’t let her UC stop her from being an amazing chef. The happy-go-lucky foodie opened up about her 20-year journey with IBD on “The Rachael Ray Show” in 2014: "People ask me why I'm so happy. Part of the reason that I'm happy is, I have a disease that I know for sure people die from. I know for sure people lose body parts from [it]. I know for sure people [with ulcerative colitis] go through really difficult days. Some people actually live in the hospital with it. To think that I could walk around, still chase my dreams, still eat the way I want to eat ... I feel really lucky."
The funny man, himself — he also lives with UC. The creator of the hit TV shows “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” was diagnosed in 1976 with colitis. But while Chuck was traveling around as a musician, he moved forward with his love for comedy and wound up writing several successful shows. They say IBD can give you a good sense of humor — and Chuck has certainly proven that.
Gregory Itzin served as President of the United States … well, at least on TV for the drama “24.” While he played this role, he was also battling UC. He’s become a spokesperson for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, and he’s been the voice of IBD public service announcements in which he talks about the habits he’s adopted to help improve his symptoms.
Having UC in the ‘70s almost prevented NFL player Rolf Benirschke from going on to become the all-time scoring leader of the San Diego Chargers. However, he went on to have a successful football career after receiving an ostomy. In fact, he was the first major athlete to open up about playing with an ostomy. Now, he works to raise awareness for ostomies and chronic illness. "While it was a little difficult at first for me to really open up about my ostomy, pretty soon it became a mission and a calling and it changed the course of my life," he told HealthCentral in an interview.
Scottish soccer player Darren Fletcher gained fame after his start with Manchester United and now plays for the Scotland national soccer (or, as those in the UK say, football) team and Stoke City. The center midfielder is open about his UC diagnosis and has partnered with Crohn’s and Colitis UK to help raise money for young IBD patients.
Author and YouTuber Hank Green gained fame as one of the “Vlog Brothers,” a video series he began with his brother, author John Green, back in the early days of YouTube. In one video, Hank shares the details of his journey with UC to his large YouTube audience. Hank published his first novel, “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” in 2018.
Dan Reynolds, lead singer of the popular band Imagine Dragons,” is no stranger to chronic illness. Not only is he a patient advocate in the ankylosing spondylitis community, but he was also diagnosed with UC at age 21.
Marvin P. Bush
Marvin P. Bush, the son of George H. W. Bush, has also struggled with UC throughout his life, and he now lives with an ostomy. In 1990, he went public about his diagnosis and what it was like to live with such a stigmatized chronic condition. "There is still a stigma," he told The Baltimore Sun, "and I think it has to do with a disease that has to deal with bowels and intestines. We're taught not to talk about it."