Earlier this week, pop star Lady Gaga confirmed via Twitter she has fibromyalgia. The announcement came as part of the publicity for her upcoming documentary, Lady Gaga: Five Foot Two, debuting on Netflix on Sept. 22, in which she shares her life with chronic pain.
USA Today, People magazine, CBS News and other mainstream media immediately picked up on the announcement and published articles about Lady Gaga’s new diagnosis, likely reaching an audience of people who may have never heard of fibromyalgia. It’s a huge win for fibromyalgia warriors who have been struggling to be seen for decades.
Without a doubt, having someone of Lady Gaga’s popularity who is publicly sharing her life of chronic pain is going to give a major boost to fibromyalgia awareness. It’s the equivalent of when Michael J. Fox announced he had Parkinson’s disease or when Magic Johnson went public with his HIV diagnosis. More people will now have a basic understanding of what fibromyalgia is.
It also lends more credibility to an illness that’s still considered by some to be a wastebasket diagnosis.
My hope is Lady Gaga’s documentary will give an accurate depiction of what it’s like to live with fibromyalgia. I so want her to be the ambassador we’ve needed for many years. Hopefully, too, she will be open to using some of her financial resources to fund future fibromyalgia research.
All that being said, her public acknowledgement of her diagnosis will likely be a doubled-edged sword. She will face the same scrutiny nearly all of us have. The truth is she doesn’t look sick. Not one bit. In fact, when she’s performing on stage, she looks downright fierce and unstoppable.
And therein lies the problem. Because she appears healthy, it will send a message to some that fibromyalgia is no big deal – that it must not be the debilitating condition so many of us claim it to be.
How many of our family members, friends and even doctors will watch Lady Gaga perform on the next music awards show and think, “Well, if she can move like that with fibromyalgia, why is my [wife, mother, friend, patient, etc.] claiming she can’t even get out of bed [or work or clean house or whatever activity that’s too difficult because of having fibromyalgia]? She must be making it up!”
We are in a situation where we desperately need more awareness for fibromyalgia so that it leads to better understanding, more research and ultimately effective treatments. But does Lady Gaga convey that as she tours the world and performs her choreographed dance moves night after night? I guess we will see.