Kathleen Turner hid her rheumatoid arthritis from Hollywood film-makers over fears it could cost her movie roles.
The Romancing the Stone star's feet swelled up and she struggled to walk for a year until doctors finally diagnosed her with the illness.
Turner still refused to go public with her health secret because she was terrified it would keep studio bosses from casting her.
She says, "I got rheumatoid arthritis very badly 17 years ago. Back then, they didn't have the medicines that they have now to treat it - but it didn't help that they took so long to recognise it.
"It got so bad I couldn't move my head and I was always feeling ill. I was eventually prescribed steroids which helped a little, but they made me look so puffy and bloated that rumours began to circulate that I was an alcoholic or a drug addict. I thought it might be safer to let people believe whatever they wanted. And I wasn't the only one - Michael J. Fox kept his Parkinson's disease secret for years.
"Hollywood hires addicts and drunks - they are familiar with those - but if you have an unfamiliar disease you definitely don't want people to know about it, because it can kill your career."
Now the actress credits the disease with helping her conquer her insecurities about her looks.
She adds, "Dealing with the pain over the years altered my outlook. When I was 20 I was a lot more insecure and looked for approval from everyone, but my illness made all that seem insignificant. Now, at the age of 55, I no longer feel I need approval from anyone."