Sick in the Spotlight: How Celebrity Misfortune Helps Us

Breast cancer. Heart disease. Alzheimer's. No matter which serious illness strikes a celebrity, it seems it also makes us pay more attention to what ails the rich and famous. Actress Kim Novak is the latest celeb to have a disease publicized. The 1950s movie star was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and joins other famous women in bringing awareness to the disease.

But sometimes, it's about much more than awareness. Not only do we learn about diseases we may not know otherwise, many celebrities spur massive action because of their illness or that of their loved one's. Three come to mind.

Katie Couric: After her husband, Jay Monahan, died from colon cancer at age 42, we watched as TV anchor Katie Couric had her colonoscopy broadcast during the Today show. In the months after this, colonoscopy rates went up more than 20 percent nationwide. Researchers dubbed the phenomenon the "Katie Couric Effect."


Christopher Reeve: When our beloved Superman was paralyzed from a severe spinal cord injury while horseback riding, the world was devastated. He and his wife formed the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to further spinal repair research. Today, even after Reeve's deaths, the Foundation's research programs have tripled and include testing promising treatments on patients.

Michael J. Fox: We were shocked to learn someone as young as Fox -- diagnosed when he was 30 -- had Parkinson's disease. Fox has aggressively led the fight for stem cell research and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has funded over $205 million to find better treatments.

Maybe being fascinated by what celebrities are going through in their lives sometimes isn't such a bad thing. Not when it can change our lives for the better.


Image via Famous Fashionistas/Flickr

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