Hallmark Stars feel sorry for Bruce Willis’ family
When actor Bruce Willis’ wife announced on Feb. 16, 2023 that the movie star received an updated diagnosis in light of worsening symptoms, the news hit several Hallmark stars close to home.
Willis was originally forced to retire from acting in early 2022 after being diagnosed with aphasia, which a March 2022 Instagram post from his wife Emma Heming Willis “affected his cognitive abilities”. Almost a year later, Heming Willis announced in a new post last week that Willis’s condition had deteriorated and that her family had received a “more specific diagnosis” of frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
“Unfortunately, communication difficulties are only a symptom of the illness Bruce is facing,” wrote Heming Willis. “While it’s painful, it’s a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis.”
According to the Mayo Clinic FTD is “a group of brain disorders that primarily affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain” and can alter a patient’s personality, behavior, and ability to communicate.
Having firsthand experience caring for a family member who has been diagnosed with the devastating disease, several Hallmark stars have expressed their condolences to Willis’ family. Sisters Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Ashley Williams lost their mother in 2016, 10 years after receiving a similar diagnosis. And Hallmark star Nikki DeLoach’s father was diagnosed with FTD before his death in 2021. All three women have become advocates for families facing similar diagnoses.
Here’s what you need to know:
Hallmark’s Williams sisters have been candid about their mother’s tough journey with FTD
If People magazine published news Commenting on Willis’ updated diagnosis on his Instagram account, Williams-Paisley said, “My mom had it too. Sending love to his family,” adding six red heart emojis.
according to people, Williams-Paisely and her family learned in 2005 that her mother, Linda Williams, had a form of early-onset dementia called primary progressive aphasia, similar to Willis’s original diagnosis. Linda Williams died in November 2016, shortly after Williams-Paisley published a memoir titled her family’s journey with dementia “Where the light comes in: Losing my mother only to find her again.” The book describes how the condition changed her mother’s behavior, leaving her moody, accident-prone and increasingly unable to recognize her own family.
In 2016 Williams Paisley to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration that her mother asked the family to keep her diagnosis “secret,” making it difficult to seek potentially helpful information and advice.
“I felt isolated because of so much of it,” Williams-Paisley said. “Like we’re driving down a dark road with potholes and hazards around every corner and it’s only going to get worse. What do you do when you are told there is no treatment or cure for something? If you’re the lab rat, doctors have to go to college because they don’t have the answers? If you’re my mother, you hide. I have chosen denial.”
That same year, Ashley Williams also spoke about and wrote to her mother about the trip emotional essay for People Magazine about having to tell their mother that she couldn’t drive anymore.
“Realizing that I had to break my mother’s heart to protect her and the community around us was one of the most painful moments of my life,” she told People of her decision to write the essay. “I had to put it on paper.”
In the years since, the Williams sisters have become vocal advocates for families facing similar diagnoses, hoping to provide resources for others to cope, build community, and find hope. In November 2022, they teamed up with their brother Jay Williams to host the Fifth Annual “Dance Party To End ALZ”, a ’90s-themed fundraiser that raised a record-breaking $525,000 for the Alzheimer Society.
In a press release about the event, Williams-Paisley said, “Having lost our mother to Alzheimer’s six years ago, my siblings and I have been relentless in our quest to advance Alzheimer’s research toward treatments, prevention and ultimately a cure.”
Nikki DeLoach says her father’s journey through dementia was ‘brutal’
The Williams sisters’ friend and Hallmark colleague Nikki DeLoach is also a vocal advocate for families and friends of a loved one with dementia, given her own experience with her father, David, who diagnosed Pick’s disease, a type of FTD, in 2017. was diagnosed.
The day after Willis’ family announced his new diagnosis, DeLoach posted an Instagram story with a message to his family and friends.
“A diagnosis of FTD is devastating,” she wrote. “My father had that. It’s brutal. My heart goes out to Bruce’s family and friends. I am so sorry. I will pray for you all.”
Her father’s steady decline and eventual death in 2021 transformed the life of DeLoach, who has spoken about her grief and desire to shed light on the disease in multiple interviews. In a November 2018 interview with the Alzheimer’s Association, DeLoach described her father’s condition.
“Father’s diagnosis of Pick’s disease is very rare and affects the frontal lobe of the brain,” she said. “It’s deadly and very aggressive. This disease changes the person completely. My father is not the same as he used to be. He was my touchstone, my moral compass…the kindest, most loving, honest, patient, and emotionally available person. I always said he was so calm he would sleep all the time.”
DeLoach is also an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association, working with Ashley Williams to lead the organization’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s in 2022.
“I met Ashley at an acting studio years ago,” DeLoach said a joint interview with the organization last year. “But what connected us on a very deep level was our shared experience of parents being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“We have reached an agreement on how we can fight this disease,” Williams continued. “It was Nikki’s idea to team up for Walk to End Alzheimer’s – she always says we’re better together.”
dr David Agus, a CBS News medical staffer, said CBS morning said it’s not uncommon for a diagnosis of FTD to pass several years after symptoms first appear, CBS News reported. Agus described family members caring for loved ones with dementia as “underrated heroes”.
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