Serious diagnoses happen every second, in every corner of the world. Diseases don't discriminate—they affect well-known celebrities, as well as unknown mothers, fathers and children.
Almost 18 years ago, one of the most celebrated athletes of our time received a life-changing diagnosis. Magic Johnson
was at the top of his game, playing basketball from the Los Angeles Lakers, when he got a call from the team doctor.
The doctor told Magic to drop everything and come in right away. "I got a flight, went back to L.A., went to his office, and he began to tell me that I was HIV positive," he says. "You're just stunned when you hear some news that is so devastating like that. You're just in disbelief and really can't believe that it's you who has HIV."
Magic says the drive from the doctor's office to his home, where he'd have to tell his wife he had HIV, was the hardest thing he's done in his life. "As I began to tell her, she started to cry," he says. "She didn't know what that meant for her and our son, E.J."
A few days later, Magic found out his wife, Cookie, and their son didn't have the HIV virus. "God really blessed me," he says. "When they told me she didn't have HIV, as well as my son, I knew that I probably would live for a long time. Because if my wife had HIV, my baby had HIV, I probably couldn't take it."
After his diagnosis, Magic says it took about a month to accept his fate. "[I thought,] 'Hey, I'm going to be living with HIV for the rest of my life, but I'm going to be fine with that,'" he says.
Magic encourages other people who are dealing with health crises to get involved with their treatment and stay positive.
"You have to really be good with you living with your diagnosis or your illness," he says. "I never felt like I was defeated and that I was going to give up and that it's over. I think that's why I've been living with HIV so long. I've always said, 'Okay, I'm going to do all the things I have to do, and I know I'm going to be here for a long time."
For six seasons, television viewers knew Fran Drescher as the wise-cracking lead character on The Nanny. Then, in 2000, millions began to identify her with something far more serious—uterine cancer.
Fran clearly remembers the moment she received her diagnosis. "I was laying in bed watching TV when the phone rang, and it was the doctor," she says. "I literally dropped to my knees and wept."
In the beginning, Fran says she was overcome with negative thoughts. "I immediately thought, 'I'm going to die,'" she says. "I was told in that call that I would definitely need to get a hysterectomy, which is a difficult operation for any woman, but for one who had never had children, like myself, it's a particularly bitter pill to swallow."
Over time, Fran says she learned to accept her diagnosis and let go of the negativity. "You can kick and scream for a while, but then eventually, you have to play the hand that's dealt you," she says. "Play it elegantly. Play it courageously. Play it with a great deal of strength."
Almost nine years later, millions know Fran as a survivor.
"I'm feeling great. I'm eight and a half years well," she says. "I didn't want to have cancer. I don't wish it on anyone, but I am better for it. Sometimes the best gifts come in the ugliest packages."
Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton spent years dazzling audiences with his figure skating before being sidelined by cancer.
In 1997, Scott says he was touring with Stars on Ice when he went to see a doctor. He wasn't feeling well, and after a battery of tests, he discovered why. "The doctor came back into the examination room, and he said: 'We seem to have found a mass. It's either benign, malignant or something else, but if it were me, I'd take care of this right away.' It was at that moment that I realized that I was just diagnosed with cancer."
When Scott learned he had testicular cancer, he says an overwhelming sense of fear came over him. "You're thinking about suffering," he says. "You're thinking about debilitation. You're thinking about the treatment."
After coming to grips with his disease, Scott says the fear was replaced with a sense of power, determination and strength.
Scott needed his strength when, a few years later, he was also diagnosed with a pituitary brain tumor. "I thought I paid my medical dues," he says. "It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to tell [my wife] Tracy."
When Tracy learned about Scott's second diagnosis, he says she held his hands and started to pray. "It was a life-changing experience," he says. "I realized all at once: 'Where am I getting my support? Where am I getting my strength? From her and from God. … Whatever happens with this, it's meant to be."
Every night, Scott says he thanks God for everything—the highs, the lows, the challenges, the victories, the roller coaster. "Without the roller coaster, without the devastations, without the low points, without the challenges and the adversity, nothing has meaning," he says.
After beating two life-threatening illnesses, Scott says it's time to skate again! He's returning to the world of figure skating after taking five years off to get his health back on track. Montel Williams' chronic condition and depression
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