Simply the best… at fighting on: How Tina Turner battled combination of ‘medical catastrophes’


Rock n roll icon Tina Turner has died at age 83 after battling what she referred to as a combination of ‘medical catastrophes’ during her rich life.

Her publicist did not specify what Turner’s cause of death was, but said that she died after a battle with an unspecified ‘long illness’.

Turner, whose career spanned five decades, had confronted serious health conditions such as hypertension that led to a stroke and kidney failure, intestinal cancer, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Ms Turner contended with several health problems that are leading causes of death in the US: cancer, stroke, and kidney disease

Ms Turner contended with several health problems that are leading causes of death in the US: cancer, stroke, and kidney disease

Tina Turner died at home today at the age of 83 after a long illness. She is shown here discussing her 2021 documentary TINA

Tina Turner died at home today at the age of 83 after a long illness. She is shown here discussing her 2021 documentary TINA

Ms Turner overcame several health challenges during her long life, including a stroke that forced her to relearn to walk, intestinal cancer that required surgery to remedy, and kidney failure that resulted in her second husband donating one of his organs

Ms Turner overcame several health challenges during her long life, including a stroke that forced her to relearn to walk, intestinal cancer that required surgery to remedy, and kidney failure that resulted in her second husband donating one of his organs

Kidney disease 

Ms Turner had severe hypertension since 1978 that went untreated for years, leading to life-threatening kidney disease, one of the top leading causes of death in the US. 

She was prescribed treatment in 1985 but told herself the medications were making her sicker and stopped taking them. She transitioned to homeopathic remedies instead. 

Giddy at her check up to see how successful her more natural treatments were working, Ms Turner said: ‘Rarely in my life had I been so wrong. I had not known that uncontrolled hypertension would worsen my renal disease and that I would kill my kidneys by giving up on controlling my blood pressure.’

She added that her kidneys, which were functioning at less than 30 percent in 2016, were the ‘victims’ of her denial that she needed medicine to survive, adding that she put herself ‘at great danger by refusing to accept the reality that I required daily medication for the rest of my life.’

Kidney failure is the final stage of end-stage renal disease and, without a guaranteed transplant on the horizon, patients can expect to be put on hemodialysis.

The number of American adults who have chronic kidney disease (CKD) is now estimated to be 37 million and more than 562,000 are on dialysis, a process that requires the patient to sit stationary several times a week for hours at a time while a machine that filters the blood, removing waste products and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys stop working properly. 

Her transplant in 2017 following a stint on dialysis was a success, but the battle was not yet won. 

Transplant recipients are required to take immunosuppressant medications to fend off an attack from their own immune system on the transplanted organ, resulting in an overall weakened ability to fight off infection.

She revealed that she still suffers from long-term ailments from the surgery, including ‘dizziness, forgetfulness, anxiety, and the occasional bout of insane diarrhea’. 

In her 2017 memoir Tina Turner: My Love Story, she wrote: ‘I know that my medical adventure is far from over. There’s always another test, another doctor’s appointment or biopsy to get through.’

She added: ‘We’re both still here, closer than we ever imagined and that’s cause for celebration.’

Stroke 

Ms Turner suffered a stroke in October 2013, three months after her second marriage to Erwin Bach.

She wrote in her memoir: ‘I woke up suddenly and in a panic. A lightning bolt struck my head and my right leg — at least that’s how it felt — and I had a funny sensation in my mouth that made it difficult for me to call out to Erwin for help. I suspected it wasn’t good, but it was worse than I ever imagined. I was having a stroke.’

The ordeal consigned her to a hospital bed for 10 days and she had to relearn to walk after that, kicking off a bumpy road to recovery.

She wrote: ‘Legs for days and muscles of steel from dancing, but I didn’t have the strength to get up. Terrified, I dragged myself over to a sofa, all the while thinking that I couldn’t imagine Tina Turner paralyzed.’ 

Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and diabetes are all known to increase the risk of stroke.

The problem occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off and parts of the brain become damaged or die. The damage can lead to long-term disability and affect how people think and feel.

Intestinal cancer 

Ms Turner was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016, three years after her stroke. 

Intestinal cancer, also known as small intestine cancer or small bowel cancer, is very rare, accounting for just one percent of cancer cases in the US.

The cancer affects the tubing that carries digested food between your stomach and your colon. The small intestine has several jobs: It is responsible for digesting and absorbing nutrients from food, produces hormones that help with digestion, and helps bolster the body’s germ-fighting immune system. 

A malignant tumor throws all of those functions into question. The exact cause is unclear but it typically begins when healthy cells in the small bowel develop changes, or mutations, in their DNA. 

A cell’s DNA contains a set of instructions that tell a cell what to do. When the DNA becomes cancerous, the cells continue to divide and replicate unnecessarily. The accumulation of these cells forms a tumor. 

Tumors in the small intestine can block the flow of food and impact digestion. As the tumor grows, it can cause pain in the abdomen. If the flow of food is totally blocked, it can cause excruciating pain, nausea and vomiting.

The cancer can sometimes require surgery, though it can also be treated in some cases with chemotherapy.  

Ms Turner underwent surgery to remove the cancerous part of her intestine, an operation that delayed her kidney transplant. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder 

Before their 1978 divorce, Ms Turner suffered abuse at the hands of her ex-husband Ike Turner for 14 years, when she alleged that she endured a broken nose, broken jaw, and multiple black eyes.

She said: ‘I tried to keep myself sane while managing his insanity.’ 

It got so bad that Ms Turner attempted suicide at one point. 

She wrote in her memoir that she told her doctor she was having trouble sleeping so that he would prescribe her pills — she then took all 50 at once, with the intent of ending her life. 

In a 2021 documentary titled ‘TINA’, the icon said: ‘It wasn’t a good life. The good did not balance the bad. 

‘I had an abusive life, there’s no other way to tell the story. It’s a reality. It’s a truth. That’s what you’ve got, so you have to accept it.’

PTSD can affect those who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event for months, or even years. 

The condition first came to prominence when US veterans returned home from the Vietnam War in the 1970s. It was the modern version of ‘shell shock’, a term first coined during the First World War. 

Today, an estimated 13 million Americans deal with some form of PTSD.  



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