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Celine Dion cancels concerts

The world star cancels performances in Europe.

Singer Celine Dion suffers from stiff person syndrome – a rare neurological disorder.

Jacques Boissinot / AP

She sang about what is probably the most famous stroke of fate in film history – now she has suffered a stroke of fate herself.

Canadian singer Celine Dion, who rose to fame with the ‘Titanic’ theme song ‘My Heart Will Go On’, informed her fans on Thursday that she will be canceling or postponing most of her upcoming European tour. The reason: Dion suffers from a rare neurological disorder, the so-called stiff person syndrome.

The disease only affects around one in a million people – now it is the singer who is an exceptional talent among millions for her fans.

In a tearful video on Instagram, the singer addressed her audience directly: “I miss you all so much,” she said. “But unfortunately the disease affects every part of my everyday life.” She suffers from seizures, has trouble walking and singing, Dion said. “Singing is my life and I always give 100 percent on stage. But that’s just not possible at the moment.”

Dion is therefore canceling eight performances in the summer of 2023, and postponing further concerts in the spring by a year. The postponed concerts include those in Zurich, Berlin or Hamburg next March. An appearance at the Paléo Festival in Nyon in July is completely omitted.

“I have to focus on my health,” she said. She’s doing everything to be back on stage soon. “But it’s a fight.”

Mysterious and incurable: the stiff person syndrome

Dion’s illness – stiff person syndrome – is not only rare but also painful. Affected people have trouble walking and sitting up straight. Again and again, muscles in the legs or lower back tense uncontrollably – as is known from cramps after too much physical exertion. However, the cramps are so severe and so frequent that a walker or wheelchair may be necessary.

According to the medical journal “Swiss Medical Forum”, the disease could lead to “a massive impairment of the patient’s mobility and independence”. According to this, the syndrome occurs about once or twice per million inhabitants. There is no cure, but according to experts there are treatment options that can be used to alleviate the effects of the disease.

Not much is known about the causes of the disease. It is clear, however, that it only affects muscles that we can consciously control – the function of the heart or lungs is not endangered in most cases. Therefore, the disease is also considered painful and stressful, but not fatal.

During seizures, neurons in the brain and spine are over-stimulated, sending uncontrolled commands to the muscles to convulse. Commands that the patient never gave. It is not entirely clear why they do this. However, doctors suspect that it has to do with the body attacking itself – a so-called autoimmune reaction.

The body’s own defense system attacks a substance in the body that it actually needs to prevent the neurons from sending excessive signals to all parts of the body. You can imagine the reaction of the neurons like a power line that suddenly lacks a seal and emits energy in all directions in an uncontrolled manner.

Although originally called Stiff Man Syndrome, the disease primarily affects women, particularly middle-aged people. Celine Dion – today 54 – is therefore a typical patient.

Not the first stroke of fate

For a long time everything was looking up in Celine Dion’s life: in 1988 she won the Eurovision Song Contest, in 1990 she made her breakthrough with the album “Unison”, in 1992 she won the first of six Grammys and the first of two Oscars for best film music in 1998 she won the second for what is probably her most famous hit – “My Heart Will Go On” from the film “Titanic”. Unlike other world stars, Dion’s surface has always remained flawless, her career without scandal.

And yet the disease that has now become known is not the first stroke of fate in the singer’s life. Six years ago, within a few days, her husband and brother died of cancer.

However, that didn’t stop Dion from continuing to perform her perfectly composed and relentlessly kitschy music in front of an audience of millions.

According to Dion, she wants to fight for this even after her diagnosis. It’s like she sings in one of her biggest hits: “When you want it the most, there’s no easy way out.” In German something like: Just when you want it the most, it is sometimes the most difficult.

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