Leukemia is a broad term for cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of leukemia that affects certain types of cells, called myeloid cells, which eventually become white blood cells called granulocytes and monocytes.
Although AML is considered a rare type of cancer, it is the most commonly diagnosed type of leukemia in adults.
In this article, we will share 11 celebrities who have been diagnosed with or raised awareness for AML.
1. Evan Handler
Evan Handler, who is best known for his roles on “Sex and the City” and “Californication,” has been very open about his journey with leukemia. Early in his professional career, Handler was diagnosed with AML at the age of 24.
In an interview published on The Takeaway, Handler explained that his diagnosis “… didn’t stop funny things from occurring, and it didn’t stop my family and me from finding things funny.”
After many years of recovery, Handler’s 2008 autobiography “It’s Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive,” details his experience with AML.
2. Ken Watanabe
Actor Ken Watanabe was first diagnosed with AML in 1989 during the filming of Haruki Kadokawa’s film “Heaven and Earth.” Watanabe immediately began chemotherapy treatments and subsequently recovered.
However, in 1994, he experienced a relapse and received treatment for the condition a second time.
Although Watanabe may not be as outspoken about AML as some of the others on our list, he has shared his feelings about what the experience was like for him, saying, “When you’re sick, you’re not thinking 24 hours a day about your suffering, about dying. You want to talk and laugh and think about other things.”
3. Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron is a celebrated writer, filmmaker, and journalist. She entertained the world with movies such as “When Harry Met Sally…” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Ephron was first diagnosed with AML in 2006. However, her diagnosis was kept quiet until her passing in 2012 from AML complications.
Ephron’s son Jacob Bernstein was asked about his mother’s experience with AML, and he explained to NPR that there were many reasons she remained quiet about her diagnosis. Bernstein said, “How do you not become the victim if people are walking up to you and saying, ‘How are you? Are you OK?’ She didn’t want that.”
4. Rich Cronin
Singer and songwriter Rich Cronin rose to fame in the mid-1990s with his pop and hip-hop group LFO. In 2005, Cronin was diagnosed with AML and immediately began treatment for the condition.
Although the initial chemotherapy was successful, Cronin experienced relapses in both 2007 and 2010. In 2010, at the age of 36, Cronin passed away from AML complications.
During his lifetime, Cronin founded the Rich Cronin Hope Foundation for Leukemia as a resource to help bring awareness about AML treatment.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cronin’s bandmate Brad Fischetti had only fond memories of his friend. While talking about Cronin, he said, “He fought hard, man. He beat leukemia twice. And beat a stroke. He was a fighter.”
5. Rishi Kapoor
Rishi Kapoor was a popular Bollywood film star who had his acting debut in 1970 with the film “Mera Naam Joker.” In 2018, Kapoor with diagnosed with AML and received treatment in New York City.
In an interview with India Today that same year, Kapoor said, “I can now reassure everyone that the cancer is in remission, I just need a few more weeks before I return home.”
After a successful treatment in NYC, Kapoor returned to India a year later to continue his career. However, on April 29, 2020, Kapoor was admitted to the hospital and passed away a day later, on April 30, due to complications from AML.
6. Timothy Ray Brown
Although Brown is most well-known for his HIV and AIDS activism, he developed AML in 2007, almost 2 decades after his diagnosis of HIV. It was this AML diagnosis and his subsequent stem cell treatment that would effectively “cure” his HIV.
In 2020, Brown faced a recurrence of leukemia that was terminal. On September 29, at age 54, Brown passed away in hospice care.
During his lifetime, Brown was primarily an avid proponent for HIV and AIDS treatment, being
7. Mary Travers
Mary Travers was a singer-songwriter and member of the popular folk group, Peter, Paul and Mary.
Travers was first diagnosed with AML in 2004 and received chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in 2005. In 2009, at age 72, Travers passed away due to complications from AML treatment.
In an interview with the Connecticut Post in 2006, just a few years before her passing, Travers discussed her brave but humorous approach to her difficult battle with AML. “You have to have a sense of humor even in the midst of what can be very frightening,” she explained.
8. Royana Black
Broadway actress Royana Black made her debut as a star in “Brighton Beach Memoirs” at the young age of 11.
While not much is known about her battle with AML, Black passed “very suddenly” from AML complications on July 14, 2020. According to a statement from Black’s GoFundMe, her family describes her as someone with “incredible energy and spirit.”
9. Ron Taylor
Australian conservationist and shark expert Ron Taylor is most well-known for his work on movies such as “Jaws” and “Orca.” In 2012, only 2 years after his initial diagnosis, Taylor passed from complications due to AML.
Although Taylor didn’t discuss his AML diagnosis as openly as his conservation efforts, close friends described him as a “humanitarian” and “innovative cinematographer.”
10. Terry Nutkins
As someone with an interest in the natural world from a very young age, Terry Nutkins made his career as a television presenter on popular U.K. shows such as “Animal Magic” and “The Really Wild Show.”
During his lifetime, Nutkins was never open about his journey with leukemia. According to a statement from his agent in the Daily Mail, Nutkins died from AML on September 6, 2012, only 9 months after his diagnosis.
11. Bob Feller
Bob Feller, nicknamed “Bullet Bob,” was a mid-century American Major League Baseball pitcher for the Cleveland Indians.
Feller was diagnosed with AML in August 2010, at the age of 91. On December 15, 2010, Feller passed away from AML only a few months after his initial diagnosis.
Although Feller never had the chance to speak about his diagnosis, he is described as being “one of a kind… an American original.”
Many of the celebrities mentioned remained quiet about their diagnosis with AML. However, both Evan Handler and Rich Cronin took a more vocal approach to their journeys with leukemia.
Even now, Handler continues to speak about his experience while advocating for others living with leukemia. Cronin leaves his legacy with his foundation that advocates for education and research on AML.
If you’re interested in getting involved with AML awareness and research, here are a few places to start:
- Funding. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society places themselves at the forefront of the fight against cancer by being the largest contributor of cancer research funding. You can find out more about who they are and how to donate here.
- Awareness. CancerCare continues to bring awareness to AML by holding their Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Awareness Month every June. You can find out more about how to get educated and involved during the month of June here.
- Treatment. The PAN Foundation has helped provide more than $4 billion in financial assistance to almost 1 million underinsured patients in the United States. You can find out more about their financial assistance for acute myeloid leukemia patients here.
AML is the most common type of blood cancer diagnosed in adults. Although AML is rare, the American Cancer Society estimates that more than
As with any health condition, there are many celebrities who have previously been diagnosed with AML. Evan Handler, Ken Watanabe, and Nora Ephron are just a few of these celebrities.
If you’re interested in getting involved and bringing awareness to AML or other types of cancer,