'As you know, I have always been an open book.'
Celine Dion has shared the devastating news that she has been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called stiff person syndrome.
In an emotional video to her fans, the 54-year-old French-Canadian singer apologized for taking so long to reach out and explained that her health struggles have been difficult to talk about.
"As you know, I have always been an open book, and I wasn't ready to say anything before. But I'm ready now."
While she has been dealing with health problems for a long time, doctors have only recently figured out why, and the diagnosis means she has to cancel her upcoming shows and reschedule her European tour.
"I have been diagnosed with a very rare neurological disorder called stiff person syndrome, which affects something like one in a million people," Dion said. "While we're still learning about this rare condition, we now know this is what's been causing all of the spasms that I've been having. Unfortunately, these spasms affect every aspect of my daily life, sometimes causing difficulties when I walk and not allowing me to use my vocal cords to sing the way I'm used to."
Dion expresses hope, but stiff person syndrome is a tough diagnosis, especially for a professional singer. The condition is marked by stiffening muscles in the trunk and abdomen, progressively moving to the legs and other extremities. Other symptoms include painful muscle spasms that can occur randomly or be triggered by noise, emotional stress or physical touch. These spasms can last minutes or hours and can be severe enough to dislocate limbs or break bones.
The severity of symptoms and speed of decline vary from person to person. Treatments and therapies can help manage symptoms, but much about the disorder remains a mystery. There is no known cause and no cure at this time.
The pain of processing this news is apparent in Dion's video message to her fans. "All I know is singing," she said. "It's what I've done all my life. And it's what I love to do the most."
"I miss you so much," she added. "I miss seeing all of you. Being on the stage, performing for you. I always give 100% when I do my shows, but my condition is not allowing me to give you that right now. For me to reach you again, I have no choice but to concentrate on my health at this moment. And I have hope that I am on the road to recovery."
Celine Dion is consistently ranked as one of the top female vocalists of all time and has performed live in front of millions in countless sold-out shows. She is known not only for her unique vocal quality and wide range, but for her passion and dedication to her craft, as well as to her fans.
No one wants to get a diagnosis like this, but for someone who loves performing above all else, it's particularly heartbreaking. Thankfully, Dion is surrounded by love and support from family, friends and fans who will lift her up and help her through whatever the future brings. Wishing her all the best as she faces this daunting challenge.