Tyler James Williams was riding the high of winning the Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series Golden Globe last week for his Abbott Elementary role. But the actor, who first broke out playing a teenage Chris Rock on Everybody Hates Chris, recently revealed that agonizing pain and a health crisis nearly got in the way of his success.
Williams recently told Men’s Health that his body “shut down” in late 2017 amid a massive flare-up of Crohn’s disease, which he didn’t even realize he had. His bowls were so inflamed and gnarled with scar tissue that he needed emergency surgery to remove six inches of his lower intestine.
Unable to properly heal, his intestines perforated, and he went into septic shock as he was rushed back into surgery. In his worst state, he weighed just 105 pounds, couldn’t stand, and had to live on IV foods. He needed an ostomy bag for months.
“The last thought I had was Holy shit, this could be it,” Williams said of his septic shock. “If this is it, I’m not happy. I worked a lot. I did a lot of things. I didn’t enjoy any of this. This can’t be it.”
Thankfully he’s doing much better now. But Williams is far from alone in his Crohn’s suffering. At least half a million Americans are impacted by the disease. According to Mayo Clinic, Crohn’s is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (or IBD) that “causes swelling of the tissues (inflammation) in your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition.” And if left untreated, it can even become life-threatening.
While the chronic illness may still be mysterious to many, here are other celebrities who have joined Williams in speaking up about their own Crohn’s diagnoses.
The 29-year-old Saturday Night Live star has been struggling with Crohn’s disease since his diagnosis at age 17. He has said that cannabis has given him relief, echoing Williams, who got a prescription to ease his pain. “Weed would be the only thing that would help me eat,” Davidson told High Times in a video.
Grammy Award-nominated singer Mike Hadreas, who goes by the stage name Perfume Genius, was unflinchingly honest when describing his battle with Crohn’s to The Fader. “It’s not a cute disease. I’m essentially just bleeding. I have lots of open wounds in my intestines. It’s just your body betraying you,” he told the music magazine. “I really do not like it.”
The Pearl Jam guitarist has advocated for Crohn’s patients, working with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation over the years to raise money in the search for a cure. “Some of the challenges I’ve had were having accidents onstage and having extreme pain playing in front of a bunch of people and being in tour buses and traveling around the world and having to know where the bathroom is all the time,” McCready said in a 2020 video interview for the foundation.
The former NFL quarterback, primarily with the Jacksonville Jaguars, began experiencing stomach pain following meals in 2004, then extreme weight loss, before he was diagnosed with Crohn’s. Despite taking untold hits on the field, suffering from Crohn’s is “the most excruciating pain that I have ever felt,” he told The New York Times. Doctors removed 12 inches of Garrard’s intestines, and he improved when he started taking prescription medication. He’s now part of the Crohn’s community, fighting against the disease alongside the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.