Celine Dion Postpones Tour After Being Diagnosed With Stiff Person Syndrome

"I always give 100 percent when I do my shows, but my condition is not allowing me to give you that right now," said the singer in a tearful message.

Celine Dion Postpones Tour After Being Diagnosed With Stiff Person Syndrome
Celine Dion attends the Alexandre Vauthier Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2019 2020 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on July 02, 2019 in Paris Photo:Dominique Charriau/WireImage (Getty Images)

In a stunning, emotional video, Celine Dion announced that she has a neurological disorder called stiff person syndrome and will be unable to tour as planned. The clip, which runs longer than five minutes and features Dion holding back tears as she speaks directly to camera, was posted to her Instagram on Thursday. (The French-Canadian singer also uploaded a version of the announcement in French.)

“I’ve been dealing with problems with my health for a long time, and it’s been really difficult for me to face these challenges and to talk about everything that I’ve been going through,” she said. “Recently I have been diagnosed with a very rare neurological syndrome, which affects something like one in a million people.”

Jon Hopkins places the prevalence of SPS at “about one or two in a million people.” The autoimmune disease, according to the National Institutes of Health, “is characterized by fluctuating muscle rigidity in the trunk and limbs and a heightened sensitivity to stimuli such as noise, touch, and emotional distress, which can set off muscle spasms. Abnormal postures, often hunched over and stiffened, are characteristic of the disorder. People with SPS can be too disabled to walk or move, or they are afraid to leave the house because street noises, such as the sound of a horn, can trigger spasms and falls.”

The announcement of the further cancellation of Dion’s concerts follows two cancellations from earlier this year. In January, Dion announced she would not perform the remaining North American shows on her Courage World Tour, which themselves had been rescheduled due to the covid-19 pandemic. That announcement cited recent treatment for “severe and persistent muscle spasms which are preventing her from performing, and her recovery is taking longer than she hoped.” In April, Dion announced the postponement of European dates on that tour, also blaming the spasms.

In her Thursday video, Dion called the SPS diagnosis recent and said, “We now know this is what’s causing all the spasms that I have been having.” She described the consequences as affecting “every aspect” of her daily life, including causing difficulties in walking and “singing the way I’m used to.”

“I always give 100 percent when I do my shows, but my condition is not allowing me to give you that right now,” she said. Anyone who has seen her dominate the stage, which in addition to virtuosic singing often includes goofy, rubber-faced asides, knows how devastating such a disorder could be on her craft.

Dion assured fans that she’s undergoing treatment with a “great team of doctors” and hoping for recovery. “But I have to admit, it’s been a struggle,” she said. As of now SPS can be treated but not cured. On its website, the NIH reports: “Most individuals with SPS have frequent falls and because they lack the normal defensive reflexes; injuries can be severe. With appropriate treatment, the symptoms are usually well controlled.”

Dion repeatedly told fans that she missed them and looked forward to spending time with them again. As of now, shows that were to be performed in spring 2023 have been pushed back to 2024 and shows scheduled for summer 2023 have been canceled.

“All I know is singing,” she said. “It’s what I’ve done all my life, and it’s what I love to do the most.”

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