More than 2.3 million people around the world are affected by MS, but the actress is too strong to hide her struggle.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 30, 2020. It has since been updated.
In October 2018, actress Selma Blair revealed that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic and often disabling disease affecting the central nervous system. Since then she actively shares her health updates on her Instagram page. The 51-year-old shared a picture of her petting her horse Nibbles and revealed that her health is deteriorating.
Initially in the caption, she gushed about when she found Mr. Nibbles but further down she wrote, “Even though I may seem like I have gone farther away, I am learning and getting healthier. Even as I get seemingly sicker.” Diagnosed in 2018, Blair's first Instagram post about the diagnosis disclosed that what she thought was a pinched nerve turned out to be lesions after an MRI brain scan, according to Health. “I have probably had this incurable disease for 15 years at least,” she said.
In her first Instagram post, she had also revealed the mobility problems as she wrote, “I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken GPS. But we are doing it.”
Blair's words resonated with a lot of MS patients who had to struggle for years before they could get a correct diagnosis. “The fatigue, speech issues, flares and mobility issues are different for each person, yet they can happen to each of us at any time without warning,” said Valerie Taylor, an MS patient who was diagnosed in 2012, according to New York Times. "Invisible illnesses are not often recognized because we appear to be ‘fine,’ yet we are anything but," she continued. “Awareness is key as well as aggressive research to find a cure.”
Kathy Costello, associate vice president for health care access at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, says that the disease is usually difficult to diagnose early because the symptoms, like numbness, tingling, or fatigue, can be due to a range of causes other than just multiple sclerosis, as per NY Times.
The Legally Blonde actress has been brutally honest about the debilitating effects of the disease on her Instagram page. One such heartbreaking post talks about how, away from the glamour of the entertainment world, the situation is truly "miserable" and "scary". "It feels like I am just breaking down," she penned in the post.
Explaining why she decided to go public with her diagnosis, the actress said, "My neurologist told me, ‘No, this will bring a lot of awareness because no one has the energy to talk when they’re in a flareup,’” she told Good Morning America, according to LA Times, adding, “But I do, because I love a camera.”
The Cruel Intentions actress now uses a cane to walk around and has made it her style statement. She appeared with a cane at the Vanity Fair Oscar party in 2019 which was her first public event after the diagnosis. Blair looked absolutely gorgeous wearing a diaphanous Ralph & Russo gown and carrying a custom-made cane covered in black patent leather.
During an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America in February 2019, Blair told new anchor Robin Roberts the struggles of living with the disease and how it has affected her. She disclosed that she began experiencing the symptoms after the birth of her son in 2011, but she never spoke about it until 2018 because, “I was ashamed and I was doing the best I could and I was a great mother, but it was killing me and so when I got the diagnosis, I cried with some relief. Like, ‘Oh, good, I’ll be able to do something.’”
She also revealed that she also had spasmodic dysphonia, a condition that makes it hard to control the muscles in the larynx. During a speech at the TIME 100 Health Summit, a year after her diagnosis, the actress spoke about her stem cell transplant and chemotherapy treatment and revealed that she felt “out of options" when her body didn't respond to the treatment initially, according to Today.
“I was really declining more rapidly than I found acceptable,” she said. “And I was like, ‘I’m not ruining my body — what’s left of it — why would I put this horrible drug in my body? Chemotherapy? I don’t have cancer, I don’t need it,’ but I was kind of out of options.”
Blair said that the fact she carried a cane to the Vanity Fair event was accepted by her fans and others which made her realize "how much it means to them, and I’m like, ‘Oh, well, I’m glad I’m useful!’” She also added that she never felt like hiding her struggle because she hopes to offer some comfort to those enduring everything that she's going through.
"I also didn't want people to think I was drunk, because I have a history of uh, that. I'm sober and so proud of it ... I'd rather have someone think she's going to be in a wheelchair than she's opened the minibar."
The actress disclosed that she didn't mind losing her hair during chemotherapy and the reason will melt your heart. “That was a small thing, I never minded hair loss or any of the things that would be ego involved,” she said. “My dream is to lie next to my son at night and be there as long as he needs me. And hopefully do something for people.”
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, more than 2.3 million people around the world are affected by MS. In America, in a study funded by the National MS Society, it was estimated that nearly 1 million people over the age of 18 live with an MS diagnosis.