Lady Gaga and Selena Gomez Are Defying Stereotypes about Chronically Ill People

Photo: Selena's Instagram

Lady Gaga was forced to disclose the fact that she is suffering from fibromyalgia this week, after having to cancel her Rock in Rio set and postpone her European tour. Fibromyalgia is an incurable condition that causes widespread nerve pain and fatigue.

Web MD explains what Mother Monster is living with: "You may have painful 'trigger points,' places on your body that hurt no matter what medication you take. Your muscles may feel like they have been overworked or pulled even though you haven't exercised. Sometimes, your muscles will twitch. Other times they will burn or ache with deep stabbing pain. Some patients with fibromyalgia have pain and achiness around the joints in their neck, shoulders, back, and hips. This kind of pain makes it difficult to sleep or exercise."

The idea of trying to tour, learn dance routines, and plan a Super Bowl halftime show while living with those ailments sounds like a waking nightmare, and yet, our Lady of Gaga has somehow managed to wow the world pretty consistently for the better part of the last decade, without having to reveal her less-than-perfect health status until now.

A similar amount of awe should be directed at Selena Gomez, who very quietly went off and got a kidney transplant this month, generously donated by her friend (and clearly all-round hero), Francia Raisa. Gomez needed the op because of lupus. Via the Mayo Clinic, lupus is a "chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs." Gomez announced the procedure had taken place, via Instagram, with this beautiful tear-jerker of a photo.

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Both Gaga and Gomez's posts about their health issues prompted an outpouring of love and support on social media, as well as notes from people also living with lupus and fibromyalgia. On Gomez's post, @syhvahn_lisseth shared: "I have been battling Lupus for 13 years and the treatments are tough... but the hardest thing is not having anyone by your side that understand[s] so thank you for using your platform to bring awareness to Lupus stay strong sweet heart 💪🏼💜💛    "

On Gaga's post, @karellynn commented: "Stay strong! You're an amazing woman. From one chronic pain and trauma fighter to another, I know it's real. I know it's unbearable. Especially when you look beautiful on the outside. Nobody knows the struggle on the inside. Sending loving vibes out to you 💜💜💜  "

Having these two vivacious singers simultaneously speaking out about their vulnerabilities has served to raise awareness around lupus and fibromyalgia (both illnesses affect mostly women and often come as a combination package), and has given the world an important reminder that the chronically ill are also active, useful members of society, contrary to stereotypes that suggest otherwise.

What's more, Gomez and Gaga have indirectly started a conversation about the difficulties people living with these kinds of invisible illnesses often have in getting taken seriously. Shockingly, according to one study, "23 percent of general practitioners and 12 percent of specialists characterized fibromyalgia patients as malingerers.” Just as horrifying are the websites dedicated to wondering aloud if lupus is even real.

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The quiet bravery Gomez and Gaga previously employed when it came to their health battles was, with hindsight, quite astonishing. But the way they revealed them last week was the epitome of grace and resilience under extremely tough circumstances.

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