By Stacy Jenel Smith
Will Bret Michaels make the live finale of “Celebrity Apprentice” tonight – exactly one month and two days after the brain hemorrhage that could easily have killed him? And within days of his “warning stroke” and the discovery of a hole in his heart?
If anyone can pull off such a feat, rock and reality star Michaels is a good bet. He learned to battle through physical challenges from the time he was six and was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.
“When you’re five to eight years old and you find out you’re going to have to take insulin for the rest of your life, its pretty depressing. It’s heartbreaking,” he recalled in an interview a couple of years back. “But I just looked at it and embraced it. I said, ‘I’m still going to go out and enjoy my life. I’m still going to make music and ride motorcycles and get tattoos.’ I just gotta work a hell of a lot harder to take care of myself.”
Michaels says being able to go to a camp for diabetics as a child made all the difference in his world. “My mom was one of the counselors and later I was a counselor at a diabetic camp in Pennsylvania. I go back there every so many years to say ‘This is how I did it. This is what you gotta do.’”
He’s also actively raised funds for kids to go to such camps in various ways. In 2005, an unorthodox campaign — with the mark of Michaels’ creativity now familiar to “Apprentice” fans — involved selling a controversial t-shirt that had a photo of him shirtless on the front and the words, “Bret Michaels Diabetic,” along with the number of injections he’d taken as of the day they shot the picture – some 253, 210. And then the words, “Fear Nothing: Survive It.”
Michaels is displaying that same kind of courage and grit getting through his current crisis, and in so doing, he’s serving as an inspiration to millions.
When so often the media is focused on negative role models of the celebrity world, it’s worth noting that there are dozens of personalities, like Michaels, who set examples of courage and perseverance every year. Speaking of those who’ve faced diabetes as just one example, we have the likes of Halle Berry, Mary Tyler Moore, Gary Owens and Nick Jonas, who has played his touching “A Little Bit Longer” song not only in concerts around the world, but at diabetes fund-raisers.
Michael C. Hall, Christina Applegate and Cynthia Nixon have joined the ranks of cancer survivors who advocate for early detection, along with Olivia Newton-John, Melissa Etheridge, Tom Green and a number of others.
Uterine cancer survivor Fran Drescher found that in her case, “There is a silver lining of cancer. Being a survivor has given a purpose to my life and an importance to my fame that works in astounding way I could never have imagined.”
Michael J. Fox continues the fight for a Parkinson’s Disease cure.
Basketball great turned movie theater mogul Magic Johnson has been living with HIV for 19 years now, and providing hope for long and productive lives to others dealing with the disease.
Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen, whose astonishing comeback from the automobile accident that cost him an arm inspires in itself, is constantly active in helping other amputees – particularly Iraq War veterans — through his Raven Drum Foundation.
The examples go on and on.
Even more than five years after his death, the late Christopher Reeve continues to inspire.
No one who was present for the 68th Annual Academy Awards – or watched at home – is likely to forget the heart-stopping sight of a lone figure in a wheelchair, revealed on an otherwise bare stage when the curtains opened. Reeve, who’d been thrown from a horse 10 months before and was left paralyzed from the neck down, had the audience of glamorous stars on their feet, some in tears as they applauded. He then made a joke at his own expense and went on to deliver a compelling introduction about the power of socially-conscious films. If you ever need a reminder of what courage and the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity look like, that 3 minute, 12 second clip will do it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffSy3-PJ5QI
In his “Still Me” memoir, the cinema “Superman” recounted his rehabilitation, admitting that initially, he considered suicide because he thought his life was over. However, he:
- wrote two best-sellers,
- directed two telefilms,
- produced and starred in a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,”
- received multiple Emmy nominations for his acting and directing work,
- traveled across the United States giving speeches,
- established the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to speed spinal cord injury research and aid sufferers,
- co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center,
- was instrumental in pioneering a new form of therapy that has accounted for a number of paralyzed patients becoming able to walk again,
- made the cover of Time,
- won a Grammy,
- and shattered ratings records for CW series when he guest starred on “Smallville.”
Those were all among the accomplishments by the late, great Christopher Reeve after his accident.