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Celebrities Who Kept Their Fatal Illnesses Secret for Years

Updated October 20, 2020 1.1m views22 items

Celebrities live lives with which most people are unfamiliar. Even their deepest, darkest, most personal secrets sometimes make their way into newspapers, online, or into the tabloids. On one hand the celebrity lifestyle is wonderful, but on the other side it can be highly invasive and upsetting for the celebrity in question. Which is why it shouldn't be surprising that there are many celebrities who kept diseases secret.

Once they're diagnosed with sometimes fatal diseases, the outpouring of false sentiment can be enough to turn even the most upbeat person cynical. There have been a great number of famous people with secret illnesses who only spoke about their disease once they were free and clear. Other celebrities who were secretly sick never spoke about their issues. Only after their passing do their friends and family tell the public about their affliction.

Which celebrities kept their diagnoses secret? Famous people including David Bowie, Cobie Smulders, and Freddie Mercury are below.
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  • The Apple CEO died suddenly in 2011 after a secret battle with cancer. The innovator had staved off pancreatic cancer for nearly two decades but let very few people (Disney CEO Bob Iger was one) knew of his diagnosis.
    • Age: Dec. at 56 (1955-2011)
    • Birthplace: California, United States of America
    • Profession: Businessperson, Entrepreneur, Inventor, Designer
    • Cause Of Death: Respiratory arrest, Pancreatic cancer
    • Credits: Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, The Pixar Story, Toy Story, The Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires

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  • Freddie Mercury
    Photo: kentarotakizawa / flickr / CC-BY 2.0
    The Queen lead singer was diagnosed with AIDS very early on in the epidemic's initial outbreak. He made his final public appearance almost 26 years ago, and while members of the band knew he was battling the disease, Mercury kept it a secret from fans and the public, denying all reports.
    • Age: Dec. at 45 (1946-1991)
    • Birthplace: Stone Town, Zanzibar City, Tanzania
    • Profession: Record producer, Pianist, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Singer
    • Cause Of Death: AIDS, Pneumonia
    • Credits: Metropolis, Ted, Shaun of the Dead, Moulin Rouge!

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  • Charlie Sheen
    Photo: Tinseltown / Shutterstock
    In November 2015, Charlie Sheen told the Today show that he was HIV positive, and had been for four years. Once rumors began spreading, the actor could no longer hide his diagnosis.
    • Age: 55
    • Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America
    • Profession: Television director, Television producer, Film Producer, Screenwriter, Actor
    • Credits: Two and a Half Men, Wall Street, Anger Management, Hot Shots!

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  • Williams's suicide was seemingly brought on by depression, which the actor had been battling for years. However, in the days following his death, his wife claimed the onset of Parkinson's, which had begun a few years prior, was what pushed him to take his own life.
    • Age: Dec. at 63 (1951-2014)
    • Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States of America
    • Profession: Screenwriter, Actor, Voice acting, Stand-up comedian
    • Credits: Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Jumanji, Aladdin

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