Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that causes severe intestinal inflammation. People who are diagnosed with the condition often experience symptoms like pain, diarrhea, and fatigue.
It’s unclear how many people live with this disease because it’s often underdiagnosed or not reported to doctors, but experts estimate up to 780,000 Americans have it.
While you’re more likely to develop Crohn’s disease if someone else in your family has the condition, anyone can be diagnosed with it. Crohn’s disease occurs in people both young and old, famous and unknown. Learn more about celebrities and notable people who’ve lived — and thrived — with Crohn’s disease.
1. Cynthia McFadden
Cynthia McFadden is NBC’s senior legal and investigative correspondent. Before joining NBC, she was an anchor and correspondent at ABC for 20 years.
Prior to her television journalism career, however, McFadden was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. During her sophomore year of college, the disease became increasingly troublesome and painful.
McFadden’s friends dubbed the new disease “George” so they could talk about her symptoms and illness more inconspicuously. “They weren’t going to say, ‘Did you have 15 diarrhea attacks today?’ So instead they’d ask me, ‘How’s George?’” McFadden said.
Shortly after graduating college, McFadden experienced internal bleeding. Treatment for that required surgery to remove 15 feet of intestine. Since that time, she’s lived without the disease and launched a highly successful career in journalism. “I decided a long time ago I wasn’t going to live my life around George,” she said.
2. Mike McCready
The quintessential rock star life is filled with parties, loud music, and crazy times. But for Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist Mike McCready, his rock star life meant spending a lot of time in bathrooms.
“I was successful beyond my wildest dreams musically, but very sick physically. I had ‘accidents’ on stage, and spent the first song of my lifelong dream of opening for the Rolling Stones in a side-stage Porta Potty,” McCready wrote for Huffington Post in 2012.
His first serious symptoms showed up when he was 21, but it took several more years before the now-51-year-old musician would be diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He still deals with the symptoms and complications of this disease, but he has a supportive team of bandmates who are sympathetic and helpful.
Today, McCready uses his condition to raise awareness and funds for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. He hopes seeing people like himself be honest about the struggles, realities, and victories of this disease will bring others to seek a diagnosis, treatment, and eventually acceptance.
3. Frank Fritz
He’s most famous for picking his way through other people’s hidden treasures, but the co-host of the History Channel’s “American Pickers” certainly wouldn’t have picked this disease for himself.
“Crohn’s is a terrible, terrible disease,” Fritz told the Quad-City Times. “It’s a disease that affects so many peoples’ lives and their family members.”
Fritz, who is on the road more than 175 days a year, has found ways to follow his dreams while dealing with the daily realities of Crohn’s disease. He adjusts his eating schedule around filming times, and he relies on the “American Pickers” crew to help him cope with his frequent trips to the bathroom.
“My entire crew knows about my Crohn’s,” he said during an interview with National Enquirer. “They understand it when I need a break. I mean, if I have to go, I have to GO!”
The pop star is best known for her eclectic style and early 2000s hits like “I’m Outta Love” and “Paid My Dues.” But while she was electrifying radios and selling out concerts, the American singer-songwriter was dealing with something bigger: Crohn’s disease.
“Bottling things up fuels the symptoms of Crohn’s. I have had to learn not to be frightened of feelings. You might think it strange that I still wanted to fulfil my ambition of becoming a singer, trying to make it in a business that is so difficult and so pressurized,” she told Daily Mail.
Anastacia was diagnosed with the digestive tract disorder at just 13. She’s dealt with the symptoms and complications since then. Today, the 48-year-old is still producing music and looking forward to a life well lived, despite her diagnosis.
“What is seen as a curse for some is a gift for me because it has helped me to discover who I really am,” she said.
5. Dennis Kucinich
The former mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, former U.S. Congressman from Ohio, and once Democratic Party presidential hopeful served eight terms representing the people of Ohio’s 10th district. Throughout his multiple tenures, he was also living with Crohn’s disease.
Earlier in life, he underwent a few surgeries to treat the condition but found the most success with alternative diets.
“I had Crohn’s disease very bad as a young person. I mean, it literally almost killed me,” he told Lifescript. “In 1995, I met someone who was a vegan, and I tried it, and I started to experience a totally different response in my body to the food that I was eating. As a result, it put me on a path towards becoming totally vegan.”
6. Ken Baumann
He was a book publisher, designer, and an author before he got his biggest break, being cast as Ben Boykewich on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” But his busy schedule wasn’t enough to keep symptoms of Crohn’s disease at bay, so the now 27-year-old star decided to be open about his experiences.
At 22, Baumann underwent surgery to treat the condition and lost 20 pounds in the process. He chose to go public with his story so that younger fans of his show wouldn’t be ashamed or scared of the pain and symptoms they might be experiencing, too.
“If you have a sense of humor, even when you’re in pain, it helps. When I did my first fart after surgery it was like hearing Beethoven’s Ninth,” he said.
7. Carrie Johnson
Olympic athletes are often a specimen of health and wellness. That’s why Carrie Johnson’s story is an inspiring but unlikely tale.
The three-time Olympic canoer was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2003, just a year before her first Olympic appearance. She still managed to qualify for the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympics, and she finished with a gold in the 2011 Pan American Games.
Still, those accomplishments don’t prevent her from facing down days thanks to Crohn’s toll on her body. “When I have the harder days, I have a real appreciation for just being able to train,” Johnson told CNN in 2012.
“In addition to achieving my athletic dream, I saw that I could live any life I wanted despite Crohn’s,” Johnson wrote for Girls with Guts. “Walking in to the Olympic Stadium in Athens Greece is still one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.”
After the 2012 games, Johnson enrolled in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.