Multiple sclerosis, another brain and nerve disease without a cure, has claimed the life of someone who was once America’s sweetheart. Singer-actress Annette Funicello succumbed to complications of MS on Monday, at age 70, in California.
According to People magazine, Funicello had been in a coma and on life support when she died, The Huffington Post reported.
Funicello was one of entertainment legend Walt Disney’s original 24 Mouseketeers, the youngsters who appeared on “The Mickey Mouse Club.” The hit TV children’s show debuted in 1955.
As she got older, Funicello graduated to appear in Disney movies such as “The Shaggy Dog.” And in the 1960s, she appeared in a series of boy-meets-girl beach movies with another singer, Frankie Avalon.
But perhaps Funicello’s real legacy is the work she did as a champion against MS, where the body’s immune system actually destroys the covering, called the myelin sheath, that protects the brain and spinal cord’s nerve cells. She was diagnosed with MS in 1987, according to The Huffington Post, but didn’t disclose that information until five years later.
But during her life she founded the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases, according to The New York Times. She also had brain surgery in 1999 “in an attempt to control tremors caused by her disease,” The Times reported.
The list of MS’s symptoms also includes paralysis, muscle spasms and epilepsy.