Annette Funicello, beloved for her role on "The Mickey Mouse Club" more than half a century ago, has died at age 70 after experiencing complications from multiple sclerosis, according to news reports.
People reported that Funicello was in a coma, and had been on life support before she died.
"She's on her toes dancing in heaven. No more MS," her daughter, Gina Gilardi, told Extra, as reported by People magazine. "My brothers and I were there, holding her sweet hands when she left us."
The Los Angeles Times reported that Funicello was originally diagnosed with MS in 1987. People reported that she first started experiencing symptoms of MS when she was filming "Back to the Beach." In 1992, Funicello finally announced her diagnosis to the public.
Multiple sclerosis is a condition where the body's immune system attacks the myelin sheath, which protects nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord, according to the National Institutes of Health.
More than 2.1 million people around the world have multiple sclerosis, and the condition can begin at virtually any age -- the National Multiple Sclerosis Society said that it's been seen from ages 2 to 75. However, it's usually diagnosed when a person is between ages 20 and 50. Multiple sclerosis won't necessarily make a person's life shorter, but it can affect the quality of life through its symptoms, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Symptoms are not the same from person to person; they can be mild in one person, and severe in another. But generally, they include fatigue, tremors, muscle stiffness, numbness or pain, depression, bladder issues, weakness, vision problems, memory problems and sensitivity to heat, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, and the only treatments available are meant to slow the progression of the disease and to manage symptoms, the Mayo Clinic reported.
Funicello's exact complications from multiple sclerosis were not reported, but common complications include epilepsy, depression, memory problems, paralysis, muscle spasms and bladder or bowel problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife's MS is central to his campaign. They often discuss her 1998 diagnosis, as well as how she <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ann-romneys-ms-highlights-unpredictable-disease/story?id=16221663#.T99GaytYvJV" target="_hplink">managed the disease while raising five sons</a>, ABC reported. <br><br> But she recently had to take a break from campaigning when her symptoms were aggravated. "I start to almost lose my words. I almost can't think. I can't get my words out. I start to stumble a little bit and so <a href="http://www.etonline.com/news/121147_Ann_Romney_on_Recent_MS_Scare_on_Campaign_Trail/index.html" target="_hplink">those things were happening</a> and I thought, 'Uh oh, big trouble,'" she said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
The Daytime Emmy award-winning talk show host announced his diagnosis in 1999, and he started the <a href="http://www.oprah.com/health/Montel-Williams-Battle-with-MS-Overcoming-Depression-and-Pain" target="_hplink">Montel Williams MS Foundation</a> to raise money for research into the disease. <br><br> His <a href="http://www.oprah.com/health/Montel-Williams-Battle-with-MS-Overcoming-Depression-and-Pain/3" target="_hplink">main symptom is pain</a>, he told Dr. Oz on an episode of "Oprah." "I've got pain from my shins to my feet, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and it's been there for the last 10 years." Then the pain spread to his face. "It literally feels like you're taking a fork and stabbing me right now. People say, 'How the devil do you deal with this?'" he said. "You have to get a grip."
The Emmy award-winning journalist and husband to Meredith Viera <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/spotlighthealth/2004-07-07-cohen-spotlight_x.htm" target="_hplink">first learned of his diagnosis in 1973</a>, but was reluctant to speak up about it, he told <em>USA Today</em> in 2004. "I always resisted being defined by my MS," he said. "That's why I was obsessively secretive about it in the early years. It never dawned on me that people thought I had a drinking problem. Police even followed me home a few times thinking I was under the influence."
The comedian was first <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2005-12-10-richard-pryor-obit_x.htm" target="_hplink">diagnosed with MS in 1986</a>, and eventually became debilitating enough to drastically affect his work,<em> USA Today</em> reported. <br><br> He died in 2005 of a heart attack at age 65.
The actress, well known for her roles in "Young Frankenstein" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" was diagnosed with MS in 1999, <a href="http://www.rd.com/health/actress-terri-garr-battles-multiple-sclerosis/" target="_hplink">after 16 years of symptoms</a> like tingling, tripping and stabbing pain, according to <em>Reader's Digest</em>. <br><br> She <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/multiple-sclerosis/teri-garr.aspx" target="_hplink">spoke out publicly about the disease in 2002</a>, according to Everyday Health, becoming a pair spokesperson for an MS medication and a National Ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and advocating for research and education.
The singer and wife of NBA player Grant Hill opened up on "Extra" in 2005 about <a href="http://telepixtvcgi.warnerbros.com/v2/news/0505/27/3/text.html" target="_hplink">her diagnosis nearly two years before</a>. "I went from being physically active to not being able to get out of bed," she said. <br><br> But she knew she had to push through and <a href="http://www.nationalmssociety.org/online-community/personal-stories/tamia/index.aspx" target="_hplink">speak up about the disease</a>, she said. "I just felt it was important to get it out there and let people know it's not a sign of weakness. You have good days and bad days."
The country musician was <a href="http://www.nationalmssociety.org/online-community/personal-stories/clay-walker/index.aspx" target="_hplink">diagnosed in 1996 at the age of 26</a>, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, after losing feeling in his right hand and leg. <br><br> Through mediation, diet and exercise, he has regained feeling, continued on in his music career and worked to raise money and awareness of the disease. He was <a href="http://www.nationalmssociety.org/online-community/personal-stories/clay-walker/index.aspx" target="_hplink">named Ambassador of the Year</a> by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, only the fourth person to receive the distinction in nearly 60 years.
Alan And David Osmond
Alan, entertainer and producer (and brother to Donny and Marie), noticed he was tripping on nothing while he was on stage in 1987 and was <a href="http://www.nationalmssociety.org/ms-awareness-week/alan-osmond/index.aspx" target="_hplink">diagnosed with MS</a> a few years later, he told the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. <br><br> His son, David, known for his turn on "American Idol," was <a href="http://www.nationalmssociety.org/online-community/personal-stories/david-osmond/index.aspx" target="_hplink">diagnosed in 2006</a>, and says one of Alan's favorite sayings -- "I may have MS but MS does not have me" -- keeps him performing. <br><br> <em>Photo: Left to right: Alan, David and Donny Osmond</em>
The writer, who <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/lsquothis-is-what-ms-looks-likersquo-2122567.html" target="_hplink">detailed her diagnosis in "The White Album,"</a> told the <em>New York Times</em> she went <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1979/06/10/books/didion-calif.html?pagewanted=3" target="_hplink">blind for six weeks</a> due to the disease.
The "Real Housewives of Washington D.C." star revealed a <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2010/09/15/exclusive-michaele-salahi-says-multiple-sclerosis/" target="_hplink">17-year battle with MS</a> on a 2010 Fox appearance. She said she hoped to use her fame to help others.
The First Lady <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/cutline/michelle-obama-letterman-isn-t-oprah-where-laughs-231917424.html" target="_hplink">spoke about her father's multiple sclerosis</a> on a recent episode of "The Late Show With David Letterman." "I never knew him to be able to walk, but my dad worked so hard and he loved us so much," she said. "I think from him I learned just absolute, complete unconditional love, the notion that kids really don't need anything but to know that their parents adore them."
The author's mother passed away in 1991 after a <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1147497,00.html" target="_hplink">10-year battle with MS</a>, People.com reported. She said that her greatest regret is that her mother didn't live to see the wild success of Rowling's Harry Potter series.