Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Private Lives, Public Causes

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Private Lives, Public Causes

Article excerpt

On "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," Jacqueline Laurita shared about her struggles with fertility, and, later, her pregnancy - and the joyous birth of her beautiful son Nicholas.

Then, last month, Laurita opened up about something she'd withheld during the filming of Season 4, whose final episode airs this Sunday: Nicholas, now 3, is autistic.

"U have no idea how great it feels 2b able2discuss autism openly now," Laurita, of Franklin Lakes, tweeted, six days after making the announcement in the Aug. 22 edition of People. "U all give great advice and tips."

Fans, in turn, thanked Laurita for her openness.

"You don't know how much I've learned about autism by ur tweets/ blogs," one woman tweeted. "My 5-year-old nephew is autistic and ur info has helped."

Laurita - who is hosting a sold-out fundraiser Thursday at The Brownstone in Paterson for the advocacy organization Autism Speaks - joined the growing list of celebrities who have gone public about a private health issue.

Why do celebrities share such things? Is it to get support and sympathy? Funds for research? Information and help? To beat the tabloids to the punch?

"The main reason, I think, that celebs are doing this more is our society is more open about these problems," says Cliffside Park's Dr. Mehmet Oz, the cardio-thoracic surgeon and television host. "Remember, even a generation ago, you wouldn't write the words 'breast cancer' in a [magazine or newspaper]. ...

"But another part of it, I think, is that celebs control their destiny when they own their story. ... [The thinking is] it's your story and your problem. You should be able to tell it in your own words."

In July, "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro announced, also through People, that his 64-year-old mother, Mary Valastro, known to viewers as "Mama," had been diagnosed with ALS - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The TLC show's July 23 season finale focused on Mary's illness and her family's reaction to it.

"She didn't really want to go public. She felt embarrassed. I really pushed for her to go public with it because I knew that she would get ... love and support and prayers from people that would make her feel so great," Buddy Valastro, a Little Ferry native, told The Record. "It's been very, very tough. I think going public was the best thing we could do. Now we're committed and focused on raising awareness."

In June, "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts announced that, because of successful treatment she'd received for breast cancer - a diagnosis she also shared with viewers five years ago - she'd developed a blood and bone-marrow disorder called myelodysplastic syndrome (or MDS) and was preparing for a bone- marrow transplant (scheduled for this week).

In June 2011, Glen Campbell revealed that he is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and is now on his "Goodbye Tour," which stops by the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown next month. …

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