Epilepsy Talk

Celebrities Supporting Epilepsy | May 9, 2015

The names are probably familiar to you. But the fact that all of these people have epilepsy may be a surprise. Despite that fact, they have lived their lives, becoming prominent in their fields, an inspiration to us all.

Harrison Ford of Star Wars fame, auctioned off his “The Force Awakens” signed one-of-a-kind leather jacket for $191,000 to benefit NYU’s non-profit Langone Medical Center in light of his daughter’s successful treatment. He is quoted as saying: “This is a cause near and dear to me.”

Alan Faneca, former guard for three NFL teams and a winner of one Super Bowl, has long been vocal about living with epilepsy. He’s now a spokesman for the Epilepsy Foundation, spreading awareness and teaching people first aid for seizures.

Amy Lee, co-founder and lead vocalist of the rock band Evanescence, has epilepsy and she regularly advocates for awareness of the disorder.

Bobby Jones, was an NBA basketball player for 13 years, with four years in the All-Stars. He took medications for epilepsy during his athletic career.

Chandra Gunn was the first player to be a finalist for both the Humanitarian Award for college hockey’s finest citizen and the Patty Kazmaier Award for best female hockey player in the nation. Today, Gunn is also a spokeswoman for the Epilepsy Therapy Project.

Danny Glover, the Academy Award-winning actor struggled with epilepsy and seizures as a child. Like many people with epilepsy, he was lucky enough to outgrow the disorder. Today, Glover supports the Epilepsy Foundation by contributing to the organization’s programs for children and by volunteering his time to speak about epilepsy and bring awareness to the issue.

Edward Snowden, the famous NSA whistleblower, got leave from his job at the NSA to be treated for his epilepsy and used the time to give revelatory interviews about America’s security regime.

Elton John, prolific song-writer and singer, has struggled with epilepsy for years. It is thought that the epilepsy was induced by the star’s years of drug use.

Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham was diagnosed with a mild form of epilepsy.

“Flo-Jo,” world record-breaking athlete and star of the 1988 Olympics, developed epilepsy in her 30s and died as the result of a seizure in her sleep in 1998.

Hugo Weaving, is the famous Australian actor who starred in The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His battle with epilepsy began as a teenager but says that his disorder never held him back, and that he didn’t let it stop him from doing the things he loves to do.

Jason Snelling, former Atlanta Falcons running back is an important supporter of the Epilepsy Foundation. He was diagnosed with epilepsy in college. With treatment, he was able to continue his football career and become a successful professional athlete.

Jerry Kill, University of Minnesota winning head football coach, had a life-changing seizure on the sidelines in 2011 at his first Minnesota home game — in front of roughly 50,000 people. Since that time, he hasn’t skipped a beat. And aside from championing epilepsy, he and his family have donated $100,000 to start the “Chasing Dreams” fund. “Chasing Dreams” will help fund “seizure-smart school initiatives, along with Camp Oz, a specially designed camp for those with epilepsy in Hudson, Wis.”

Kelly Osbourne went on the ketogenic diet in the hopes of avoiding a second seizure. The “Fashion Police” host was hospitalized for five days after suffering a seizure in front of a live studio audience during a taping of her E! show.

“Lil’ Wayne” the famous Rap superstar, recently came clean about the condition he has dealt with for much of his life. By talking publicly about his epilepsy and what it feels like to have a seizure, the rapper is helping to shed light on the condition for his millions of fans.

Martin Kemp, a member of Spandau Ballet has had epilepsy since having two brain tumors in the 1990s. He finished third in the summer series of Celebrity Big Brother 2012.

“Mighty Mike” Simmer of the Harlem Wizards, first started having seizures as a toddler. He continues to live with epilepsy as an adult, but he works with the Epilepsy Foundation to help children with special needs.

Neil Young, singer of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, thrived despite numerous medical problems, including seizures. He once had a seizure during a concert performance, but he persevered and later remarked, “The aneurysm, polio, epilepsy — all those things are just part of the landscape.”

“Prince”, the legendary performer and Grammy Award-winner, only talked publicly about his childhood battle with epilepsy a few years ago.

Richard Burton, once the highest paid actor in Hollywood, was plagued by epilepsy all his life. He eventually fell into deep alcoholism, trying to control his seizures.

Rick Harrison, the star of “Pawn Stars” lives with epilepsy. Now, Harrison is giving back by working with the Epilepsy Foundation and helping the organization bring awareness to his home state of Nevada.

Susan Boyle, the woman who made waves on “Britain’s Got Talent” with her lovely voice, has also opened up about having epilepsy. The unlikely star struggled with the condition throughout her childhood. Boyle has talked openly about her physical disability and how it held her back.

Tony Coelho, the former Democratic minority whip of the US House of Representatives has epilepsy. His lifelong experience with epilepsy motivated him to author the landmark legislation Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. He also served as campaign manager for Al Gore’s presidential run. Mr. Coello is the honorary Life Chair of the Epilepsy Foundation.

It’s safe to say that many more famous people have epilepsy, but don’t reveal it in public because of the ongoing stigma associated with the condition.

What lessons can be learned from a list such as the above?

Epilepsy is not discriminating.

Epilepsy can strike anybody at any station of life or level of accomplishment.

Epilepsy can be deadly and devastating to a person’s life, even if they enjoy other successes.

Finally, epilepsy does not exclude the possibility of major achievements and contributions.


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Harrison Ford’s <i>Force Awakens</i> Leather Jacket Fetches $191,000 at Auction











  1. John Roberts, Chief Justice, SCOTUS? Debatable. See link: http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1648384,00.html

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Martha — May 9, 2015 @ 12:46 PM

  2. I swear to god Phylis, every time I open up my computer–if only to see your smiling face, and damn! You just get better looking! Brilliant, loony (and the bone structure does not harm) you just get better as you, just as patt-rat–y-pattio, (think pattois—I may have invented a new word for YOU from the French)Just checking in, smiling, thanks for another day.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Michele — May 9, 2015 @ 12:50 PM

  3. Oh, and, I was thinking, really life is just a bit too difficult on some days, and then we lean on Arthur and Jim and the lovely other people who complete us.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Michele — May 9, 2015 @ 12:53 PM

  4. Great post, as per usual!! Amy Lee of Evanescence doesn’t have epilepsy though. She advocates for her younger brother who has it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by sitagaia — May 9, 2015 @ 10:04 PM

  5. Yet another reason to admire her!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 10, 2015 @ 9:13 AM

  6. I’m epileptic and finding it difficult to stay with a partner. I’m lonely

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Helen Wollie — May 11, 2015 @ 1:58 PM

    • Relationships of all kinds with epilepsy are difficult and I have found out the hard way. I think it’s because most people find it hard to understand what they can’t see and even if they see a seizure happening it’s so frightening to them they aren’t sure how they feel afterwards. For me, it’s been a nightmare. I had a seizure during an argument once with a man who claimed to love me, wanted to marry me and ended up almost killing me by beating me during the seizure! If you are lucky enough to find someone with a great deal of compassion and understanding, I say there’s a keeper for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Janet — May 13, 2015 @ 9:24 PM

      • There is hope.

        I met a guy at work who became a buddy and we started hanging out. You know, lunch and stuff. And he made me laugh till I couldn’t catch my breath.

        And then the first time I was in his apartment, he was making drinks and I had a flaming seizure. I figured: “Oh no. Here we go again.”

        He was unbelievably caring, gentle and kind. He asked if I was having a seizure and what he could do for me. (It turned out that one of his best friends since second grade had epilepsy).

        But, I wouldn’t exactly call our dating days “romantic.”

        Our second date was at Arby’s where I instantly spilled a giant root beer on my jeans. The third date, we spent at the Laundromat, because those were the only jeans I had. The next date, we argued about a pair of shoes I was buying. (I hate to admit it, but he was right. They were a piece of crap.)

        But we did fun things too. Like go to a street fair, movies, read poems out loud to one another. (We’re both writers.)

        And eventually, things evolved. Ironically, without any expectations or preparations. We were simply in love. Good buddies who happened to love each other also. With FULL disclosure. And many seizures, too.

        Six weeks later, he called and asked me to marry him. (No, he wasn’t a chicken, I just happened to live 350 miles away. It had been a temporary freelance job.)

        I said: “No.” I was terrified. I kept saying “No.” I wouldn’t know a good marriage if it bonked me over the head. I came from a fractured family and every member of my extended family was divorced. Easiest way to not get divorced? Don’t marry.

        Finally, it was time to say, “yes,” or “bye-bye.” And you can guess the rest. A year and two days after our first date, we got married.

        It’s the real deal…unconditional love. Thirty-three years of it. (With a few bumps in the road along the way.)

        I write him love notes every day. Now, isn’t that romantic?


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 14, 2015 @ 9:13 AM

  7. Helen, You might consider a support group.

    There are people of all ages, men and women, at mine.

    Lots of camaraderie, questions asked and answered. I’ve gotten tremendous feedback and satisfaction from it.

    Here’s a list. Think about it.

    Adult Epilepsy Support Groups — Updated



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 11, 2015 @ 3:07 PM

  8. I like this list a lot. I’m still hoping there might be a way to bring awareness through someone like Ellen DeGeneres who does so much for so many causes. It would be so nice to get a group together from the Foundation and try to contact her….couldn’t hurt. What do you think Phyllis?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Janet — May 13, 2015 @ 9:27 PM

  9. Sounds like a good idea, but unlikely. I know there was something rumored to be happening, but I didn’t hear anymore.

    The spokesperson is officially Greg Grunberg, known for his series “Heroes”, who runs the advocacy group “Talk About It!” http://www.talkaboutit.org/


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 14, 2015 @ 9:02 AM

  10. Thanks all of you. I don’t live in the US. I live in Liberia, West Africa. There is so much stigma around epilepsy. I have been called a witch, a demon, and everything. I know there are epileptics, but they may be hiding their status. My mom has been so much support to me and she sometimes talks about starting some support group here in Liberia.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Helen Wollie — May 22, 2015 @ 12:21 PM

    • The support group is fabulous. The stigma is not.

      My guess is that, because of the stigma, there are many more people with epilepsy in the “closet”. 😦


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 22, 2015 @ 2:15 PM

  11. Strong link between magnesium deficiency especially, and vitamin E deficiency with epilepsy – http://www.doctoryourself.com/epilepsy.html


    Comment by Wen — November 24, 2016 @ 4:37 AM

  12. Thanks lots for the link, Wen!

    Could you please post it under:

    Brain Food for Your Health… https://epilepsytalk.com/2016/11/03/brain-food-for-your-health/

    so that everyone can benefit?

    Thanks again!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 24, 2016 @ 10:01 AM

  13. I developed a seizure disorder when I was 37 with 3 small children, most likely the result of head injury.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Jennie Stegall — January 5, 2017 @ 1:06 AM

  14. Jennie, you might be interested in these articles:

    Have You Had A Concussion?


    Traumatic Brain Injury and Epilepsy



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 5, 2017 @ 9:58 AM

  15. Living openly with epilepsy I find even though epilepsy is under the ADA nothing has changed. Employers discriminate as I felt they need to know. My last experience was so bad it brought me to contacting the EEOC after I found out the person that discriminated against me had been let go. The person taking care of my case told me…. They probably quit their job to stay at home with their kids or vidit their mom. I see epilepsy like any other thing…. Money helps with it all… If you have it, then there are the rest of us that take each day one at a time thankful for those that care and love us because when it comes to the bottom of things, they are our heros.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Amy — January 26, 2018 @ 8:46 PM

  16. […] people have been able to live normal lives, regardless of the fact that they have epilepsy. Epilepsy Talk cites celebrities, such as Evanescence’s Amy Lee, rapper Lil Wayne, actor Danny Glover, […]


    Pingback by Health24.com | Should I tell my employer I have epilepsy? | WellnessMaster — February 16, 2018 @ 6:04 AM

    • My favorite quote: “I want people with epilepsy to know that there are ways in which they can play a role in their own recovery. It’s all in how they approach what is happening and how they can use that as a catalyst for their own growth. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that people are willing to embrace you if you share your story.” Danny Glover


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 16, 2018 @ 8:40 AM

  17. Nice article and although I’m not famous, I’m learning, one day at a time, after a Grand mal

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Elizabeth — March 14, 2018 @ 2:33 PM

  18. Phyllis,

    Can you explain on the term, “Outgrow Them.” My first neurologist used those words to my mother, saying that it was possible I “could outgrow them.” Example: Concerning Danny Glover, you stated that he “outgrew the disorder.” I want to know how ANYONE “outgrows” epilepsy. Thanks for your *Time and information. It means a lot. Stay Blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Effie Erhardt — June 1, 2019 @ 9:34 PM

  19. Some people stop having seizures at a certain point.

    They may be seizure-free or most probably, their seizures are controlled. (Like me.)

    I haven’t had a seizure in decades, but I still take Lamictal as a precautionary measure.

    Does that help Effie?


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 1, 2019 @ 9:59 PM

    • Thanks for reply, Phyllis. I still don’t *understand this *Curse, Condition, Disease, Neurological Disorder. It was always my understanding that something “had to happen” to a person in order for them to have seizures. My case, a high fever at 6 months old.

      My first neurologist told Momma, “She might outgrow them when she gets married.” In other words, “having sex.”

      Just this morning, like so many other times, I had a Temporal Lobe “blackout” while in the shower. As a matter of fact, MOST of them occur when I am in this *enclosed area, mostly in this one bathroom. I asked my husband to be sure. He said I HAVE had “blackouts” at other times, while in there. Even while feeding the birds from an *opened window. I just don’t understand what it is about *THIS bathroom.

      If anyone else has “a certain place” where they have seizures more frequently, I would like to know what they “feel” when in that spot. I don’t (yet) dwell about having one, beforehand.
      Thanks for reading, my friend. Agape.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Effie Erhardt — April 19, 2020 @ 12:07 PM

      • My first seizure was in the shower. There were four water jets and all of a sudden, it felt like my energy was draining down through my toes.

        I tried to get out, but the door wouldn’t open. At first, I thought I was going to drown. Then I thought I was going to die.

        Luckily, I did get the door open and landed, face first on the floor. With half of me on the floor and the other half, still in the shower.

        I would advise that someone oversee your bathing.

        But as for the other seizures, I don’t have a clue.

        Perhaps confinement is your trigger? But that doesn’t explain the opened window, which should ease these feelings.

        It’s unusual and I’m sure real scary. But I can only tell you what happened to me.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 19, 2020 @ 12:32 PM

  20. Here is the list that I accumulated over the years:

    Famous People with Epilepsy:

    Bud Abbott-(Abbott & Costello)
    Alexander the Great
    Grover Cleveland Alexander (Pro Baseball player) …
    Dante Alighieri (wrote: Dante’s Infirno)
    Buddy Bell-USA (Pro Baseball player/manager)
    Napoleon Bonaparte
    Richard Burton (actor)
    Lindsay Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac)
    Lord Byron
    Julius Caesar
    Truman Capote
    Lewis Carroll
    Charles V (Emperor of Austria)
    Agatha Christie
    Ian Curtis (of the band Joy Division)
    Leonardo da Vinci
    Jonathan Davis (of the band Korn)
    Charles Dickens
    Fydor Dostoevsky
    Gustave Flaubert
    Danny Glover
    Sidhartha Guatama (The Buddah)
    Tony Greig-England (Cricket)
    Georg Fredrick Handel
    Hannibal of Carthage
    Margaux (Margot) Hemingway
    Gary Howatt-USA (Hockey)
    Joan of Arc
    Elton John
    Bob Jones-USA (Basketball)
    Florence Griffith Joyner
    Tony Lazzzari-USA (Baseball)
    Edward Lear
    Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
    Vachel Lindsay
    James Madison-US President
    Jean Moliere-French playwright
    Isaac Newton
    Alfred Nobel
    Nicolo Paganini
    Saint Paul (disputed)
    Peter the Great
    Pope Pious IX
    Edgar Allen Poe
    Jonty Rhodes-South Africa (Cricket)
    Cardinal Richelieu of France
    Sir Walter Scott
    Pioter (Peter) Tchaikovksy
    Harriet Tubman
    Vincent Van Gogh
    Paul Wade (Australian soccer)
    Greg Walker-USA (Baseball)
    William III
    Neil Young

    This list was shamelessly pirated from hither and yon. Feel free to make additions.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by howdydave — September 3, 2019 @ 1:03 PM

  21. Yup, I’m right behind you, Dave.

    Epilepsy Hall of Fame



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 5, 2019 @ 10:03 AM

  22. I believe Einstein had epilepsy too?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Sharon Masters — December 4, 2019 @ 12:17 PM

    • Right you are!

      Albert Einstein had epilepsy, as did Thomas Edison and Bud Abbott.

      Julius Caesar, Socrates and Napoleon are all believed to have been sufferers.

      Present-day people reported to have the condition include Elton John and Rik Mayall.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 4, 2019 @ 2:09 PM

  23. Never give up on the power of the mind and spirit to confront and overcome those darn seizures. Persistence will prevail 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Alicia Reynolds — April 9, 2020 @ 10:39 PM

  24. I have a mild form of epilepsy which is controlled with medication

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Gary Barrett — April 28, 2020 @ 12:08 PM

  25. I have had a rare form of Epilepsy it started when I was 4 yrs old and I am now 55. Most kids do grow out of the epilepsy; however, I was not that fortunate. The past 4-5 years has been hell. There’s not many days that I do not have a seizure. Having Lennox Gastout Syndrome is no joke. Between being allergic to so many seizure medications and the 4 pages of medications you can not take, makes you want to just give up. But I do know there are people in worse conditions.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Barbara — June 5, 2020 @ 3:05 AM

  26. […] English singer and songwriter has struggled with epilepsy for years. That’s why he’s an avid supporter of charities that assist elevate cash for folks affected […]


    Pingback by 11 Celebs Who Didn’t Let Their Circumstances Stand within the Method of Their Desires - Social Love — October 19, 2020 @ 11:09 AM

  27. I have searched and search the web desperately trying to find help for a childhood friends daughter. Her daughters name is Lauren. Lauren has had epilepsy since she was 14 yrs old. Lauren wanted to become a surgeon but of course due to epilepsy, she could not. She did become a nurse. She is 24 yrs old. She is a new hire at University of Chicago Hospital, however, her seizures became more frequent and severe after worrying there 2 weeks and she has been on unpaid medical leave now for months. I contacted the Epilepsy Foundation in Chicago but there is no financial assistance for people like Lauren who need interim Assistance during her treatment adjustments until she can return to work. She loves being a nurse and she does not want to be a number on the unemployment statistics. All of these wonderful actors and celebrities donate money and time and speak at fundraisers to bring awareness to this horrific disease but how about awareness and funding for people like Lauren who need interim financial assistance in paying for her mortgage, health insurance, monthly expenses. We did a GoFundMe but the little money raised has exhausted and now Lauren is at risk of losing her condo. Her mother lives with her but is unable to work. When Lauren was working, her mom drives her because Lauren can’t drive yet. She has a new team of specialists at UofC and we are praying they can get the perfect medication adjustment so she can continue doing what she loves. Please let me know if you know of any organizations that can provide temporary financial assistance for Lauren. She can provide medical records and specific information, anything needed. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Lois Togas — October 13, 2021 @ 4:34 PM

  28. Here’s someone’s testimonial is a situation like yours:

    I was just told by my primary dr. that he is putting me out of work for a couple to 3 months so we can try different meds.i got the paperwork from my HR dept at work. i was on family leave starting last year when the episodes were happening almost daily, i ran out of family hours fast so HR advised to go on the short term disablity. its a government law they told me, that you are allowed so many hours a year. its like four hundred and some. i think you should ask for more than a couple of weeks off. and its better to have the time off than have to go back to the doc in a couple of weeks and ask for an extension. we all know how the paper work between drs and your employer can be.”

    Here, also is the thread for short term disability: https://www.epilepsy.com/connect/forums/living-epilepsy-adults/can-you-get-short-term-disability

    I would begin with a statement from HR and your doctor.

    Then apply it to Social Security temporary benefits.

    Your Epilepsy Foundation should be able to guide you through the steps.

    I hope this helps.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 14, 2021 @ 11:27 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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