Celine Dion says 'I'm back' after health struggles

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Celine Dion says 'I'm back' after health struggles
The Canadian singer made a rare appearance at the Grammy Awards earlier this year

The 56-year-old describes the distress she felt as a performer when she began to notice changes in her voice on tour.

BBC | As the sun sets behind the mountains in an exclusive neighbourhood 30 minutes from the Las Vegas strip, I can hear a recognisable voice singing behind a closed door.

"Is that Celine?" I ask.

Her security man guarding the hotel suite nods.

I am about to interview a musical megastar, and it sounds like she is in a cheerful mood.

But the iconic voice I can hear casually singing away is one that fans feared they might never hear again.

"I’ve been dealing with problems with my health for a long time," she shared in an Instagram video in December 2022.

"I have been diagnosed with a very rare neurological disorder."

After that devastating announcement, Celine Dion pulled out of the remainder of her world tour, and has rarely been seen in public since.

Signs of trouble

The medical name for her little-known illness is Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS), a neurological condition that causes muscles to spasm.

As we sit down to talk, Celine says it went undiagnosed for years.

The 56-year-old describes the distress she felt as a performer when she began to notice changes in her voice on tour.

"It was just feeling a little strange, like a little spasm," the Canadian star says.

"My voice was struggling, I was starting to push a little bit."

She demonstrates the subtle difference by singing the first few bars of her 1993 hit The Power of Love, showing how she was having to force her voice to hold the notes that once came more easily.

Occasionally, she would ask the conductor of her backing musicians to bring certain songs down a key for a few performances.

"I needed to find a way to be on stage," she explains.

She hoped singing fractionally lower might give her voice a chance to recover.

Audiences would never have known the struggle she was facing behind the scenes.

But Celine says at the time it felt impossible to take time off.

"These shows were sold out for a year and a half, going around the globe.

"And I’m going to say to people, 'Excuse me about my spasm? Excuse me about my je ne sais quoi?'"

She put huge pressure on herself to keep the show on the road, not understanding what was causing the symptoms she was experiencing.

But it all became too much.

Her eventual diagnosis brought the realisation that this was not tour fatigue. It was permanent.

SPS is an autoimmune disease that can be debilitating. There is no known cure.

It is caused by the signals from the nerves to muscles not working properly.

During a particularly severe episode, the spasms can be so bad that she can barely move.

But having been properly diagnosed, she now understands much more about the condition, which can be managed.

"My goal is to be part of the funds and raising money for awareness and to find a cure. That would be amazing," she says.

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