Selma Blair has had a successful acting career from the start. From starring in "Cruel Encounters" to making us laugh in "Legally Blonde," this actress has been busy living out her dreams. However, in 2018, she had some shocking news to share with the world. Blair had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and it was something that nearly stopped her right in her tracks. "When it hit, it hit kind of hard," she admitted to People. "Because of the speech, the vertigo, the vision."
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, almost 1 million American adults have the disease. Multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, begins by affecting the body’s immune system. Instead of just simply fighting off sicknesses like it should, it attacks the central nervous system instead (via National Multiple Sclerosis Society). This leads to inflammation in nerve endings, halting messages to the brain and making it difficult for the body to perform specific tasks. As Blair told People, "Everything I do is to work toward feeling better."
MS can manifest itself in completely different ways in the people it affects. This is Selma Blair’s story.
Selma Blair experienced symptoms of multiple sclerosis long before her diagnosis
For nearly 15 years before any official diagnosis, Selma Blair was attempting to manage the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, the star explained in an Instagram post. On a daily basis, the actress was dealing with exhaustion, pain throughout her body, and sometimes blurry vision.
Even after making several appointments, the actress was dismissed. "[I was] not taken seriously by doctors," Blair admitted to Good Morning America. Instead of turning to an MRI, medical professionals would simply tell Blair it was because she was "a single mother, you’re exhausted, financial burden," she explained. "Blah, blah, blah." Because her symptoms appeared soon after giving birth, even she thought she may have postpartum depression (via Time).
After taking medications and even improving her daily diet, Blair was still having symptoms. During one doctor’s visit, she had trouble walking and was dragging her leg behind her — something she figured was as simple as having a pinched nerve. "Ever since my son was born, I was in an MS flare-up and didn’t know," she later revealed.
Selma Blair realized something wasn’t right at New York Fashion Week
After seven years of strange symptoms, Selma Blair realized something was really wrong after attending New York Fashion Week in 2018. "It was on the runway, with the thrill of walking in the show, that I suddenly lost feeling in my left leg," she explained in an interview with Town & Country. "But I was on a runway and thinking, What do I do?"
As she began walking, Blair’s brain was having trouble computing what to do next. "I couldn’t feel the ground or how to lift my left leg," she revealed to fans on Instagram. Nevertheless, Blair was able to finish the show, and no one seemed to notice what was happening.
While she still credits modeling in that Christian Siriano show as one of the most incredible days, the symptoms she was experiencing were something serious, and she became angry at herself for feeling this way. For far too long she had dealt with some mysterious condition. Blair needed answers — stat.
Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis was actually a relief
Being diagnosed with a lifelong disease isn’t an easy experience. However, when Selma Blair was told she had multiple sclerosis in 2018, she said she was actually relieved" (via Time). Instead of continuing to wonder what was going on with her body, the actress now had the answer she’d been seeking. She now knew how she may be able to treat her multiple sclerosis, too.
In addition to all that, Blair felt reassured that she had a reason for why she was constantly exhausted. She had always blamed herself for her body’s symptoms and wasn’t sure how she could ever get back to feeling like her old self. Blair’s diagnosis put a "stop to a lot of the self-loathing I had for my fatigue and confusion," she admitted to People. These drastic symptoms were wreaking havoc on being able to live her day-to-day life, but now Blair was determined to one day be told that her disease was in remission.
Selma Blair decided to go public with her diagnosis
Instead of hiding her disease — like many actors and actresses she knew — Selma Blair decided to share her diagnosis with the world (via Time). At the end of 2018, she took to Instagram and revealed that she’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. "I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy," she wrote. "And my left side is asking for directions from a broken GPS. But we are doing it."
The inspiration for her Instagram post came from an experience she’d had at work that day. Blair began needing help to button up her character’s costumes and someone to lean against as she got dressed for set. It was due to the support of her crew that she was able to keep acting and living out her dream. Yet her diagnosis gave her another dream to aspire to, too.
"My dream was to lie there by my son every night for as long as he needs me," she said during the Time 100 Health Summit in 2019. "And hopefully do something for people." Ever since she’s shared her journey, she said, "I’ve heard so much from people with chronic diseases."
Selma Blair makes a fashion statement with her cane
It had been a while since Selma Blair was seen on any red carpets, but she decided to make a grand entrance at the Vanity Fair Oscar part in 2019. People all over the world admired how she looked. Along with her colorful dress, the actress debuted a monogrammed cane (via Town & Country). "People really were so comforted that I wore a cane to a glamorous event," she said during the Time 100 Health Summit in 2019, "which I didn’t even think about. I just didn’t want to fall."
Ever since, Blair has received countless comments from fans on Instagram who have shared their admiration. Many of them admitted that they were always embarrassed of having to walk around with a cane. For this actress, sacrificing style is not something she’s willing to trade in for multiple sclerosis. "A cane, I think, can be a great fashion accessory," she told Vanity Fair, and she’s been seen rocking one in public since.
Like many with multiple sclerosis, Selma Blair has flare-ups
Oftentimes, people with multiple sclerosis have periods of time in which they feel fine and other times they experience many symptoms at once (via WebMD). This is known as an MS flare-up. And since the disease causes inflammation in the body, the nerve endings that are affected can impact various parts of the body (via National Multiple Sclerosis Society).
Selma Blair has been open about her symptoms. "Right now I have spasmodic dysphonia," she explained to Good Morning America in 2019. The condition, caused by her multiple sclerosis, causes the muscles in her throat to spasm and this makes it difficult to speak. "I’m not in pain," she explained to People. "Although it’s an effort."
On other occasions, Blair has had difficulty with her vision. She often has trouble focusing on things like her phone or computer, and she’d lost her eyesight in one eye for periods of time. These symptoms and all the uncertainty can be scary to anyone who experiences them, including Blair. However, she relies on a motto to get her through. "I am choosing to say this too shall pass," she shared on Instagram.
Before being diagnosed with MS, Selma Blair tried to push through her fatigue
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, nearly 80 percent of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis experience fatigue. Even before being diagnosed with MS, Selma Blair found herself having a hard time staying awake. "I’d drop my son off at school a mile away, and before I got home, I’d have to pull over and take a nap," she told Good Morning America.
Unfortunately, medical professionals still aren’t exactly sure why this happens, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society revealed. However, the Society explained, "Early identification of the cause of fatigue can lead to an effective treatment plan." In a throwback photo Blair posted on Instagram in May 2019, she wrote, "And this was a year ago. I knew I was always exhausted." Yet she would try to push through and pretend like nothing was out of the ordinary. "I was giving it everything to seem normal," she told Good Morning America.
Selma Blair experiences brain fog as a result of multiple sclerosis
In a since deleted throwback Instagram post from 2019, Selma Blair attempted to remember the reason for the picture. "This was from a book to raise money? Awareness? For brain cancer," she wrote (via Women’s Health). However, she couldn’t remember exactly. "I have my own memory problems," she admitted. "I might forget what I am looking up in the middle of it. Or I would give you more info on this book. So. I keep typing."
Blair isn’t alone. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, more than half of those with multiple sclerosis experience memory loss. For some, it is the first symptom they have. However, the disease typically does not cause long-term memory loss, rather some trouble remembering something in the moment or having a feeling of cloudy thinking, according to WebMD. This is known as brain fog (via WebMD).
The actress has developed POTS since her multiple sclerosis diagnosis
After her diagnosis in 2018, Selma Blair developed another condition. "I also have something called POTS that came about from my MS," Blair revealed on Inside of You. Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, is another disease that affects the body’s central nervous system. With POTS, a person’s heart rate rapidly increases upon standing. Because of this, those who have the condition may feel lightheaded or even pass out when moving to an upright position too quickly (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). "I will pass out at anything," Blair explained. "My heart changes rhythms."
A study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences in 2010 found a link between MS and POTS. Researchers believe this relation has to do with the damaged nerve endings that MS creates. These blocked pathways can then create changes to a person’s blood pressure, thus leading to POTS.
Selma Blair takes her multiple sclerosis day by day
Every day can be completely different if you have multiple sclerosis. The best way that Selma Blair gets through it all is to tackle the disease day by day. However, some days are harder for her than others. Some days, she finds herself spending the afternoon in bed resting her body, and she’s learned that’s perfectly okay. "You can’t do it all," she told Good Morning America. "It’s fine to feel really crappy." She went on to say, "My son gets it, and now I’ve learned not to feel guilty."
For everyone else out there who is having a difficult day due to a chronic disease, Blair has some great advice. "Let the body heal. Nourish. Walk slowly. Burst into laughter," she wrote on Instagram. At the end of every day, it’s important to remember that "we can do it," the actress added. "Breathe."
Selma Blair has gone through chemotherapy to treat her multiple sclerosis
In 2019, Selma Blair found it difficult to manage the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. "I was really declining more rapidly than I found acceptable," she said with a laugh during the Time 100 Health Summit in 2019. That’s when she began meeting with doctors to discuss her options.
Something that was suggested to Blair was chemotherapy. However, she was very skeptical about it — at least at first. "Why would I put this horrible drug in [my body]?" she thought. "Chemotherapy? I don’t have cancer." However, at that point, she was willing to do whatever it would take to make a change. And so she decided to do it. She scheduled a stem cell transplant as well as rounds of chemotherapy. "I immediately felt some relief," she admitted.
Blair said she warned that the process would be difficult, but she felt it would be worth it. "Chemo and other high dose drugs come at a price," she wrote in an August 2019 Instagram post. She continued, writing, "It will feel better. The beginning is hard."
MS is treatable, but there is no cure yet
Though there are multiple ways to help a person manage multiple sclerosis, there is unfortunately no cure for the disease — yet. However, research is continuing to be conducted every day in order to help alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and hopefully one day cure the disease (via Medical News Today).
In the meantime, it’s important to try to get the disease diagnosed early on (via Medscape). However, multiple sclerosis is one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose. This is because, in part, people experience many different symptoms (via Geisinger).
For Selma Blair, in particular, multiple sclerosis has manifested itself in many ways: vision changes, numbness and tingling, a foggy memory, exhaustion, and difficulty controlling her movements. Yet, despite these symptoms, she told Vanity Fair, "There’s no tragedy for me. I’m happy, and if I can help anyone be more comfortable in their skin, it’s more than I’ve ever done before." Helping inspire those who have a chronic illness is what has helped her get through it all. Like nearly 1 million others, "I have MS," Blair wrote on Instagram, "and I am ok."
Selma Blair has an amazing support system
While Selma Blair has been busy inspiring those around her who have multiple sclerosis and other chronic diseases, she herself has had a pretty incredible support system. Her friends have rallied around her during her most difficult times, "and even people I don’t know," she told People.
One of her best friends, actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, has always been by her side. When Blair’s symptoms get to be too much, her friend is over to help her out with whatever she needs. When Blair doesn’t have the energy to make meals for her son, Gellar gets it done. "It takes so much off your plate and that I can then have time to read with my son or go to his school the next day," Blair said.
It’s also helped her to have some friends who can relate. Before Blair was officially diagnosed with MS, she reached out to another celebrity who’d been diagnosed with a chronic disease: Michael J. Fox. The actor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991, and his words of wisdom have helped Blair through some tough times. "He gives me hope," she shared with Good Morning America.