A recent example of a celebrity keeping their illness a secret is Georgia Frontiere, the Rams owner, who died at 80 of breast cancer. Her illness was kept a secret by family members and team officials, according to her wishes.
Battling disease can be difficult enough without having to worry about the extra attention and unwanted press that this kind of news can bring. Deciding to reveal an illness or a deeply personal issue is not only scary, it can leave one feeling vulnerable.
Choosing not to reveal a major illness might seem like the obvious choice for a public figure faced with this decision. Besides the unwanted press, there are other reasons a celebrity might choose not to reveal their illness.
Most people, celebrities included, want to be remembered for their work, not their disease. Also, going public with a disease can effectively end their career, so many choose to keep their battles private.
It should be said however, that despite the difficulties in mentioning a serious illness to the public, great good can come from revealing it.
Speaking about the disease publicly can help raise awareness for it, and also help to encourage those at risk to get screened.
Lance Armstrong, a major sports figure who just won his 7th Tour de France race, revealed his battle with testicular cancer, even while his cancer metastasized to his lungs and brain.
What is the reason these celebrities reveal their illnesses? I have a hunch it’s because the act of confessing is restorative. Clarity and a new purpose is often the end-result.