Kathleen Turner and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Kathleen Turner is a well respected actress who made the transition from leading lady roles to character parts despite a long struggle with at times debilitating rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Turner got her start on television in the soaps and made her movie debut in “Body Heat.” She also starred in two Indiana Jones movies and “Serial Mom” as well as doing more television, voices for animated series such as the Simpsons, and Broadway plays.
Turner was diagnosed with RA about 1991 but it had taken some time for her to get a correct diagnosis. She has said that at the beginning of her symptoms that she was in excruciating pain, thought she was going to die, and even at times thought about suicide.
At first she was treated with high doses of prednisone and the drug methotrexate. The prednisone caused her face to be puffy and rumors spread that she was abusing alcohol. At this time she was not talking about her diagnosis and would often work in a great deal of pain. Doctors even thought for a time that she would be unable to walk and would need a wheelchair permanently.
She describes one night in a play that required her to climb three stories of stairs in high heels each night. She would do so in agony, and then sit down out of sight and weep for five minutes before repairing her make up and going right back onstage on her cue.
Eventually she was referred to an arthritis clinic using the most modern drugs and placed on Enbrel, an IV biologic modifier. With this medication plus Celebrex and minocycline, she went into remission and has mostly maintained it. She does occasionally have flairs and has required some surgeries including a knee replacement before doing “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” on Broadway.
In 2002 Kathleen Turner went public about her diagnosis and received funding from a pharmaceutical company who makes one of her drugs to speak out on RA. While she never mentioned the name of her drug, this was somewhat controversial and some networks have since required disclosure of such financial support. Still, Turner lends a much needed public face to RA and has done work for the Arthritis Foundation since going public.
Kathleen Turner wants people to know that no one need suffer as much as she did early on in her disease nor do they need to have the joint damage she sustained. She is an advocate for better testing and for biologic wonder drugs as part of RA therapy. She continues to get good medical care and to show courage and persistence despite her illness.
Turner discusses her life with RA: www.usatoday.com/
Interview with Kathleen Turner on the Arthritis Foundation site: ww2.arthritis.org/
Wikipedia article about the career of Kathleen Turner: en.wikipedia.org/
Turner discusses her fight against RA: everything-and-nothing-at-all.blogspot.com/
Another interview with Turner mentioning her RA: www.healthtalk.com/
How Kathleen Turner prepared for a Broadway role with a knee replacement: topics.nytimes.com/