16 Famous People With Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder that affects the lungs, pancreas, liver, and intestines. There's no cure for the disorder, which is caused by a gene mutation. Gene therapy and transplantation can help treat some of the effects of cystic fibrosis. Most people who have cystic fibrosis die by their late 30s.

Composer and piano virtuoso Frederic Chopin, for example, died in his 30s, and historians believe his symptoms resemble those associated with cystic fibrosis. Fellow musicians Alice Martineau, Gregory Lemarchal, and Alex Stobbs all suffer from cystic fibrosis as well.

Triathlete Lisa Bentley was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 1988. She hasn't let that stop her from winning 11 Ironman competitions. Wrestler Andrew Simmons and NCAA basketball player Nolan Gottlieb also suffer from cystic fibrosis while pursuing competitive athletics. Frankie Abernathy brought cystic fibrosis into the homes of millions of people when she appeared on MTV's reality show The Real World.

Photo: Thoroughbreds / Focus Features

  • Anton Yelchin
    Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain

    Actor Anton Yelchin was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a child, but chose to keep it under wraps. Friends and family discussed the diagnosis - and extensive treatment he received for it - in the 2019 documentary about his life, Love, Antosha.

    Some speculated that perhaps his unparalleled work ethic was due to the fact that he knew his condition wouldn't let him act for as long as other people. Yelchin starred in 69 films in his short career, including several of the Star Trek films.  

    Yelchin never spoke publicly about the disease, but following his untimely passing in 2016 (after an accident where his car rolled over and crushed him in his driveway), his parents donated $1 million to USC's cystic fibrosis center, where he had previously received treatment. 

    • Age: Dec. at 27
    • Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
  • Frédéric Chopin
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY
    Frederic Chopin was a pianist and virtuoso pianist.  He died at the young age of 39.  Physicians and historians believe the cystic fibrosis was one of the diseases that accelerated Chopin's poor health.
    • Age: Dec. at 39 (1810-1849)
    • Birthplace: Żelazowa Wola, Poland
  • Dean Barnett
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY
    Dean Barnett was a blogger and radio host who frequently discussed his struggles with cystic fibrosis.
    • Age: Dec. at 41 (1967-2008)
    • Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • Bill Williams is an acclaimed video game designer who designed popular games like "Monopoly" for Nintendo and "Bart's Nightmare" for Super NES.
    • Age: Dec. at 37 (1960-1998)
  • Lisa Bentley
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

    Lisa Bentley

    Despite being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Lisa Bentley has won 11 Ironman competitions.
    • Age: 54
  • Kenneth Keith Kallenbach was a frequent guest of the Howard Stern radio show.  He was arrested and died in prison.  A few days before his death, Kallenbach called his mother to say that he was worried because the prison wasn't treating his cystic fibrosis properly.
    • Age: Dec. at 39 (1969-2008)
    • Birthplace: Pennsylvania, United States of America