Considering all of May is Lupus Awareness Month, we're showcasing famous faces dedicated to spreading the word about the realities of the autoimmune disorder. For those who don't know, lupus is a disease that — in a nutshell — causes the body to ambush itself. Per Mayo Clinic, the body's immune system will attack its own tissues and organs. "Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs."
With symptoms ranging from fatigue to joint pain to a butterfly-shaped facial rash, lupus is often difficult to diagnose due to its similarities to other illnesses. A majority of lupus cases aren't fatal, and some are fairly mild. Sadly, there isn't a cure for lupus, but modern treatment has made living with the disease more controllable.
Being immunocompromised and living with a disability (especially today) can be an isolating journey. Given this, we commend celebrities like singer and actress Selena Gomez (Only Murders in the Building) and actor and television host Nick Cannon (Drumline) for rawly sharing the ins and outs of their battles with lupus. Shining a light on often-invisible ailments helps normalize them. Not only that, but a little education can go a long way. Here's what Selena and Nick have shared about their personal experiences.
Selena Gomez has shared her story with the intention of uniting the lupus community and helping others.
"My lupus, my kidney transplant, chemotherapy, having a mental illness, going through very public heartbreaks — these were all things that honestly should have taken me down," Selena told Elle in an intimate interview. Selena has been publicly open about her lupus diagnosis since 2015.
"Every time I went through something, I was like, ‘What else? What else am I going to have to deal with? You’re going to help people,'" she explained "That’s really what kept me going. There could have been a time when I wasn’t strong enough, and would have done something to hurt myself."
We can only imagine what it's like to feel as though your precious body, your beloved temple, is letting you down while the world is crumbling around you. Not only has Selena been honest with fans about her diagnoses, but she has been open about her symptoms and "life or death" treatments. Due to her lupus nephritis diagnosis, the "Lose You to Love Me" singer received a kidney transplant in 2017. Her best friend Francia Raísa (How I Met Your Father) was the courageous angel of a donor.
Selena credits Francia with saving her life. Along with kidney failure, Selena has also dealt with arthritis and blood pressure irregularity. She vows to stand by and empower her community.
"This is why I am committed to the Lupus Research Alliance. So that none of us are alone, especially the young women that I have grown up with and heard many, many stories," Selena said during a 2017 speech at the Lupus Research Alliance's Breaking Through Gala.
Selena founded her makeup brand, Rare Beauty, in 2020. Not only is the brand's message and shade range inclusive, but a portion of its proceeds go toward the Rare Impact Fund — which sets out to "help give people access to mental health services" — and its stunningly elegant packaging is disability-friendly! Selena truly is rare.
Nick Cannon is grateful he's "able to be that voice and use [his] celebrity for the proper awareness."
Nick, the Wild 'n Out creator, was diagnosed with lupus in 2012. Over the last 10 years, he has "laid a foundation both mentally and physically to build back the life" that he nearly lost to the misunderstood disease. It started with sudden shortness of breath, swelling, and pain. You could imagine Nick's shock when doctors informed him his kidneys were failing.
"After a decade of close calls, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, and hospitalizations, I continue to push through," Nick said in a video shown on his short-lived talk show The Nick Cannon Show. "Throughout this journey, I had to change everything about the way I live my life, and it wasn't easy."
Having documented his health crisis and journey, Nick tells the camera, "It's the last place you wanna be, man. Doctors telling you you could die."
Like Selena, Nick has used his celebrity status to help others battling lupus. According to People, Nick has worked with the Lupus Foundation of America and took part in its Washington, D.C. Walk to End Lupus Now in 2014.
On a more crass note, Nick has been widely criticized for having seven different children with four different baby mamas — and he has got an eighth baby with a different woman (model and actress Bre Tiesi) on the way. How does this relate to lupus? Nick can explain...sort of.
"I’m probably gonna die sooner than most people...so let’s f--k all night! So why wear condoms? I might not be here tomorrow!" he told Howard Stern in 2017 while discussing his battle with lupus. Well, everyone processes pain in their own ways.
The Lupus Foundation of America has stated that approximately 1.5 million Americans have a form of lupus. Other famous figures like Toni Braxton and Seal have been open with their struggles. They also used their platforms to highlight the truths and misconceptions about lupus. For anyone facing serious health issues, it's comforting to know they aren't alone in this world and that other people can relate.