Morgan Freeman, the much-lauded actor with the amazing voice, has fibromyalgia. It apparently first came out in an Esquire magazine article last July. Here’s the part of the article where it comes up:
Every so often [Morgan Freeman] grabs his left shoulder and winces. It hurts when he walks, when he sits still, when he rises from his couch, and when he missteps in a damp meadow. More than hurts. It seems a kind of agony, though he never mentions it. There are times when he cannot help but show this, the fallout from a car accident four years ago, in which the car he was driving flipped and rolled, leaving Freeman and a friend to be pulled from the car using the Jaws of Life. Despite surgery to repair nerve damage, he was stuck with a useless left hand. It is stiffly gripped by a compression glove most of the time to ensure that blood doesn’t pool there. It is a clamp, his pain, an icy shot up a relatively useless limb. He doesn’t like to show it, but there are times when he cannot help but lose himself to a world-ending grimace. It’s such a large gesture, so outside the general demeanor of the man, that it feels as if he’s acting.
“It’s the fibromyalgia,” he says when asked. “Up and down the arm. That’s where it gets so bad. Excruciating.” ~by Tom Chiarella, Esquire
According to the Facebook page for ProHealth (a site that sells supplements and also provides a lot of great information,) a large fibromyalgia organization has approached Mr. Freeman about being a spokesperson. Some people have apparently said they don’t think he should be, with the reasons being that he’s a man, and that because he’s still so active that it would make people think we were capable of much more that we are.
I have two things to say about that. #1: both of those “problems” are rubbish. #2: it would be a huge boon for all of us if he accepted.
Before I go into why, though, I will say this. As someone who talks about her health for a living, I completely understand if he’s reluctant to do so. It changes the way people see you, and it forces you to put extremely personal information out for public consumption. Anyone who’s ever blogged or used social media knows how nasty the public can be, and it’s exponentially worse for celebrities. (However, I have to say that my readers here are amazing – I almost never have to deal with nastiness, so thank you for that!)
OK, back to the two points above.
“He’s a man,” and “He’s too active.”
- Yes, he’s a man, and 90% of the people diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women. It’s true that he’s not representative of the majority. Here’s the thing, though – while we may not like it, it’s a fact that the general public takes men more seriously. Part of the condition’s image problem is that it’s perceived as an “old woman’s illness.” If a famous, well-respected man steps up and says he has it, it’ll shatter the stereotype and do us a world of good.
- Yes, he’s still quite active, and many of us are bedridden or nearly so, and even a lot of us who’ve made huge improvements still can’t do a fraction of what he does. In that way, again, he’s not representative of the majority. However, in the article he talks about having to give up activities he loves, and then there’s this great quote: “There is a point to changes like these. I have to move on to other things, to other conceptions of myself.” No, he’s not bedridden – but he understands the loss and change of chronic illness. Besides, can we have an effective spokesperson who can’t make it to the set for a shoot, or travel to speaking engagements? Not likely.
It Would be a Huge Boon
The obvious comparison is Michael J. Fox and the tremendous difference he’s made for Parkinson’s disease research and awareness. Also, who hasn’t heard of Jerry’s Kids? And tennis great Venus Williams raised awareness of Sjogren’s syndrome just by announcing that she has it and being open about it in interviews.
A celebrity spokesperson with an illness can make headlines and have an impact like nothing else. Morgan Freeman isn’t just any celebrity, either – he’s a long-time A-lister who’s face and voice are instantly recognizable. He’s intelligent, likable, and credible. He shatters some stereotypes just by having fibromyalgia, and more by having a great attitude about life in spite of it.
Imagine this scenario: a medical convention plans to have multiple seminars on fibromyalgia. Would your doctor attend? Do you think he/she would be more likely to attend if Morgan Freeman was speaking? Would his presence make the turnout better at an Awareness Day event? I’m thinking … yeah.
A personal plea now to Mr. Freeman:
While I understand and respect that it’s a difficult thing to do, I sincerely hope that you will become a fibromyalgia spokesman. Millions of us live not just with the pain, the exhaustion, the crippling fibro fog – but with disbelief in our illness. Husbands tell wives to get off their lazy butts and do something. Friends tell us we’d feel better if we’d just go to the gym. Doctors roll their eyes at us and regard us as whiners. We’re in desperate need of a strong, credible voice like yours telling people that this condition is real, that it’s devastating, and that we need a lot more than a little time on the treadmill to get better.
Mr. Freeman, we need a voice like yours to call for more research. We need to understand what fibromyalgia does to our bodies so that we can treat it more effectively, and so that we can possibly begin to prevent it in our children.
Your voice and your example could help inspire the millions of people who don’t know how to find a new concept of themselves, or, worse yet, have a negative concept of who they are because of this illness.
Please, Mr. Freemen – lend your voice to this fight.