Alan Jackson Fans Are Sharing Their Stories of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease + It’s Really Touching
Alan Jackson revealed his Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease diagnosis on Tuesday (Sept. 28), and now he's hearing from fans who also battle CMT. Three things are clear about the singer's news, made in part to answer an inevitable question: What's wrong with Alan Jackson?
The first is that Jackson is not alone. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reveals that 126,000 people in the United States and more than 2.6 million worldwide have Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. It's hereditary and not life-threatening, but there is no cure.
Dozens of Jackson's fans responded to his tweet sharing the news with their own experiences with CMT or other neurological diseases.
"Welcome to the CMT Club," tweets @SLBatPHN. "Telling your story will help my niece and nephew see how adults like you and I can grow up and grow old with this frustrating problem and still lead happy and successful lives."
Those messages — and the many more like it — point to the two other things learned by those following Jackson who didn't know about CMT before this week. There's no sugar-coating how challenging life with the diagnosis is and will continue to be for him, even with therapy. There's also very little awareness of the disease. By sharing his story with Today's Jenna Bush Hager, the country icon becomes the face of the disorder in a way similar to how Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali became the faces of Parkinson's disease.
"I’ve had CMT for over 25 years," @VzrZack writes. "It’s not easy and every day is a challenge. I hope you can help raise awareness for this disease so that we can find a cure!"
Per the Mayo Clinic, Charcot-Marie-Tooth causes nerve damage largely in the arms and legs and can cause muscle contractions, loss of sensation and difficulty walking. Jackson says he's been aware of his disorder for years, but it's becoming more noticeable.
"And I know I'm stumbling around onstage," he admits in the interview. "And now I'm having a little trouble balancing, even in front of the microphone, and so I just feel very uncomfortable."
Eventually he'll need assistance walking, but he doesn't yet have plans to retire from the stage. "I never wanted to do the big retirement tour, like people do, then take a year off and then come back. I think that's kinda cheesy," the 62-year-old says. "And I'm not saying I won't be able to tour. I'll try to do as much as I can."
Jackson's grandmother, father and one of his sisters all inherited and lived with CMT, he shares. There's no indication that any of his children have it.