10 Celebrities Who Have Battled Lyme Disease


10 Celebrities Who Have Battled Lyme Disease

As we head into the warmer months, you've probably been seeing a lot of information and warnings about Lyme disease.

The debilitating disease, which is caused by borrelia bacteria found in black-legged ticks, has been spreading like wildfire over the last few years, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and it's become a huge cause for concern.

In the last two decades, Lyme disease cases have tripled, and affects approximately 300,000 Americans every year, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

A tick on skin

The symptoms, which often include fatigue, achy joints, fever, dizziness, night sweats, tremors, and foggy memory, often mimic other diseases and that makes it hard to diagnose.

There are still a lot of people in the country who aren't aware of Lyme disease, so recently, more and more celebrities have been opening up about their diagnosis to raise awareness.

Here are 10 of them:

1. Alec Baldwin

Alec stayed quiet about his struggle with Lyme disease for 17 years after he was bitten by a deer tick.

He received a shot after the first bite, but he was bitten again a few years later.

The actor finally came clean about the complications he experienced during his speech at the Bay Area Lyme Foundation LymeAid benefit in 2017.

Alec Baldwin
The Wrap
"The first time was the worst of all," Alec said. "And I really thought this is it, I'm not going to live. I was alone, I wasn't married at the time, I was divorced from my first wife. I was lying in bed saying, "˜I'm going to die of Lyme disease,' in my bed and "˜I hope someone finds me and I'm not here for too long.'

The 30 Rock star then revealed that he suffers from a chronic form of the disease.

"I got the classic Lyme disease (symptoms) for each successive summer, for five years, every August, like this black lung, flu-like symptoms, sweating to death in my bed," Alec added. "The first round (was the worst), and then it diminished, at least that's how I perceived it."

2. Shania Twain

Shania Twain's battle with Lyme disease affected her most valuable instrument: her voice.

The debilitating disease caused her to suffer from dysphonia, a condition that forces the vocal chords to seize up. This threatened her ability to sing or even talk properly.

"It's difficult work," she said. "It's like dealing with an injury. I'm just glad that it's not my heart or my kidneys or something like that. At least I can do something about it."

Shania Twain on stage
Hot Country 103.5

Shania still works hard ever day to overcome her dysphonia. She paces herself when it comes to performing, and uses a "strict regimen" that includes a combination of vocal warm-ups and physical therapy to help her deal with the condition.

After a long hiatus, the "You're Still The One" singer recently made a comeback. She performed a Las Vegas residency for two years, released a new album titled Now, and is currently on a world tour.

The Grammy-winner, who got bit by a tick in Norfolk, Va., now continuously warns people about the "very short window" for the infection to set in.

"[Lyme] is very dangerous because you have a very short window to catch it and then treat it and then even when you treat it, you could still very well be left with effects, which is what happened to me," she said.

"You've got to check out where you are and whatever region you're in and what the rate of Lyme disease is in the region, if you're going to go out in nature," she said. "And I love nature, so that's a big bummer for me."

3. George W. Bush

In 2006, while he was still serving as President of the United States, George W. Bush was treated for Lyme disease, according to the White House.

The condition was hidden from the public until the results of his annual physical exam were released.

Former president George Bush
Miller Center

Apparently, the 43rd president was bitten by a tick while he was riding a bike. He developed the characteristic bull's-eye rash in his lower left leg, and as a result he was treated for "early, localized Lyme disease."

The White House confirmed that his condition reached "complete resolution" and was "without recurrence."

4. Avril Lavigne

Over the last few years, the internet ran amok with theories as to why Avril stopped making music and public appearances.

The biggest conspiracy theory of them all argues that Avril has been replaced by a clone named Melissa.

Avril Lavigne

Little did they know that she was dealing with a complicated health scare that left her bedridden for five months.

Doctors initially couldn't pinpoint what was wrong with her, but they eventually diagnosed with Lyme disease just before her 30th birthday.

"There were definitely times I couldn't shower for a full week because I could barely stand," Avril recalled. "It felt like having all your life sucked out of you."

"I felt like I couldn't breathe, I couldn't talk and I couldn't move. I thought I was dying." she added.

Thankfully, the 33-year-old is doing better now and is already back in the studio to record new music. She made her first red carpet appearance in two years.

5. Ben Stiller

The actor came clean about his diagnosis during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

He was suffering from a knee injury that never seemed to heal following a trip to Mozambique, and doctors eventually found out that it was actually Lyme disease that was causing his pain.

Ben Stiller

"I'm symptom free now," Stiller told the magazine in 2011, "but Lyme doesn't ever leave your system. It's a really tough thing."

Aside from his interview with THR and David Letterman, Ben rarely discussed his battle publicly.

He once said that he believed he contracted the illness while he was in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

6. Yolanda Foster

Former model and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member has openly discussed her Lyme disease diagnosis since 2012.

Yolanda's daughters, models Gigi and Bella Hadid, and her son, Anwar, also suffer from chronic forms of the awful condition.

"This is such an invisible disability, where you look beautiful on the outside yet you're dying on the inside," Foster said in an emotional interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts. "That's what people are judged with every day."

"It didn't just happen to me, it happens to everyone who suffers from Lyme," Foster added of the judgement she received from those who don't understand the disease. "Including my own daughter, who's on the cover of magazines, yet people don't know how much she really struggles behind the scenes."

Yolanda and her children
ABC News

At one point, Yolanda's symptoms were so bad that she had trouble reading and retrieving information.

When the pain got really severe, Yoalnda told ABC News that she contemplated suicide, but she thought about her family and didn't go through with it.

"I still have some brain issues, where my scanner is off, where sometimes I have a hard time with word retrieval and things like that," she said. "The minute I got on the show I got sick. I've never worked on that show with a normal brain," she said. "I was always struggling and always trying to hold on, and keep my job."

The reality star and her children are now doing their best to raise awareness for the incurable disease. She wrote a book, Believe Me: My Battle with the Invisible Disability of Lyme Disease, which chronicles her battle.

7. Daryl Hall

The one half of the duo Hall & Oats, Daryl has been through a lot of ups and downs in both his professional and business life, but nothing has left an impression quite as much as his battle with Lyme disease.

The "Rich Girl" singer was first diagnosed around 2006, and he spent the next five years trying to fight off the symptoms.

At first, he thought he developed allergies, because he experienced swelling after eating celery and suddenly became sensitive to alcohol. Then one day, after experiencing "all kinds of aches and pains" and "really bad tremors," Daryl went to the hospital for tests.

Daryl Hall
"I didn't know what it was, so I went in for tests and ehrlichia "“ which is a tick disease "“ came up in that initial test result. About a week after that, I learned that I had six or seven tick-borne diseases."

The singer cancelled his tours, and had to go on some "heavy doses of various medication." His symptoms have been greatly diminished, but he still experiences flare-ups.

"Sometimes it doesn't affect me at all, but then it comes back in phases," he explained. "Right now I'm in a phase where it sort of comes and goes with a little more regularity, and when I say that I mean that I get something called a herxheimer reaction, which is sort of a roving group of symptoms."

Daryl has been able to successfully manage his symptoms so he can get back on the road and perform for his fans.

Now, he is advocating for doctors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to recognize Lyme disease as a chronic illness.

8. Debbie Gibson

When 80s teen queen Debbie Gibson performed at Hit Parade in Chile in 2014, people were quick to point out that she looked skinnier than usual.

Turns out, she wasn't trying to maintain svelte figure on purpose, she was just starting to recover from a bout of Lyme disease.

She penned a blog post revealing that at the time, she had been diagnosed with the tick-borne illness for about a year, but it took multiple medical tests and false diagnosis before doctors could reach a conclusion.

Debbie Gibson
ET Online

Her symptoms included food sensitivities, fatigue, never and muscle pain, weight loss, night sweats, tremors, headaches, and numbness, but they worsened after she got a botox treatment on her face.

"With Lyme still undiagnosed, both the trauma of the needles and the toxin itself wreaked absolute havoc on my physical and mental state. I will NEVER put this or any other toxin into my body for vanity reasons EVER again. I hope anyone out there considering this approach takes this as a precaution. Some never have any reaction, but on the other end of the spectrum is my experience."

"I was mixing up my words. I had trouble with directions and driving. I was terrified. The tremors intensified and now I had tingling and pain in my head, along with migraines. I learned a big lesson the hard way."

Debbie recalled being bitten by bugs in the spring, but she didn't think much of it until after the diagnosis.

She's gotten well enough to join the cast of Season 25 of Dancing With the Stars. Although her muscles hurt enough to prevent her from dancing, Debbie still pushed herself was able to make it through rehearsals and two weeks of competing.

9. Ashley Olsen

Former child star turned fashion designer Ashley Olsen was reportedly diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2015.

Sources close to the twin told In Touch that she was "in a lot of pain," and that she actually contracted the disease years prior and has since been suffering in silence.

Ashley Olsen

"Her symptoms have gotten worse," the insider said. "She's had to take a step back from her business. She used to be in the office all the time, but lately she's often just not well, so she rests a lot at home. She's really having a difficult time."

"She's really struggling, and it comes out in anger "” she's at the point where she's having a hard time dealing," the insider says. "She just seems all-around cranky.

In addition to medication, Ashley was said to have turned to exercise and physical therapy to help her manage her symptoms.

For years, people have been speculating that the disease is why the actress and fashion mogul has stepped back from public life, but she has never publicly confirmed her illness.

10. Richard Gere

Richard Gere is another actor who became victim of the awful disease.

He was diagnosed about 18 years ago while he was filming Autumn in New York alongside Winona Ryder.

Richard Gere

Richard was forced to postpone filming so he could undergo antibiotic treatment to get rid of the bacteria from his system.

Although it never became chronic, a source close to the actor told tabloids that he thought he was going to die from the disease "that landed him flat on his back and in agony."

If there's anything we can learn from these celebrities' stories, it's that Lyme disease is an illness no one wants to contract.

How can you protect yourself?

Thankfully, the disease is preventable, as long as you take the proper precautions to limit your exposure to ticks, especially when you're outdoors.

1. When spending time outside, always use bug spray containing DEET on your skin, clothes, and even shoes.

2. Upon returning indoors, do a "tick check"  all over your body, and pay extra attention to places like your armpits, scalp, behind your ears and the groin area.

A tick bite
The Chronicle Herald

3. If you spot a tick, you can remove them by grabbing the head with tweezers and pulling upward with steady, even pressure. Be careful not to twist the bug, and don't apply soap, heat or other products on it.

4. If you've been bit by a tick, it takes at 36-39 hours before the bacteria spreads, so after removing the bug, immediately wash the area with soap and water or apply rubbing alcohol.

5. Save the tick in a clear glass jar to show your doctor when you go in to get the bite checked. They will be able to determine what type of tick it is, and whether or not it has had the chance to feed on your blood long enough to infect you.

Stay safe this summer!

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.