During the 2018 Academy Awards, Keala Settle, who played the bearded lady in the hit musical The Greatest Showman, brought the audience to their feet with her performance of “This Is Me.” What many people watching the show didn’t know, however, was that a week prior, Settle suffered a mini-stroke while rehearsing for the ceremony.
Now, nearly a year later, she’s opening up about the rare disorder and what it was like dealing with all of this days before going onstage in front of the entire world.
— billboard (@billboard) November 28, 2018
After her mini-stroke, Settle lost motor function in half of her body. Doctors diagnosed her with a rare condition called Moyamoya disease—a “progressive cerebrovascular disorder caused by blocked arteries at the base of the brain in an area called the basal ganglia.”
whoa!!!! thats intense
— Danielle C (@Danielle0314) November 28, 2018
Settle would later undergo a “10-hour double-bypass brain surgery” to fix the problem.
She says the medical scare was terrifying but has truly improved her outlook on life:
“It’s shifted me in ways I’m still understanding. The way that I look at the world is so completely different. I’m more at peace than I’ve ever been; I can find the joy in things I never could. This truly gave me another lease on life.”
She owned that song. Incredible voice!!!!
— RonnieTheOneandOnly (@LDHFab40) November 28, 2018
Settle describes her physical condition leading up to the Oscars, coming off of a nonstop worldwide tour:
“I was completely rundown. I had gotten food poisoning in Tokyo, I was fighting a cold. I barely had anything left to give.”
Wow. What strength. And the epitome of “the show must go on.”
— Kat's Photography (@katstiennon) November 28, 2018
On February 24, Settle became so stressed at a rehearsal for the following week’s Oscar ceremony that she had a panic attack while preparing.
“Collapsing into tears” among her fellow singers, Settle could tell something was wrong with her body:
“It was like someone cracked an egg on the top of my head and then drew a line on my body, turning one half off. My body started drooping immediately. I tried to put my hands up to my face, but I could only move my left arm. I couldn’t talk because part of my tongue was immobile. I tried to stand, but there was nothing. I was panicked. I let out this wail because I was so scared and the room went silent. All I could figure out how to say was ‘Help.’ “
— Annoying Actor Friend (@Actor_Friend) November 28, 2018
Settle didn’t know it at the time, but she was suffering from a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a sort of mini-stroke that can often warn of bigger problems. About 20 minutes after the TIA was over, Settle regained her body’s functions, but the scare was enough to send her to the hospital, where doctors discovered her Moyamoya.
She described her body as a ticking time bomb:
“It could have happened at any time. It just so happened to happen a week before the biggest performance of my life.”
The singer decided to delay surgery until after her Oscars performance. Obviously, it went off without a hitch.
Fans were so glad to know the star is okay.
You go @kealasettle so happy to hear you are healing and better!
— Taylor Quinn (@_taylorquinn) November 28, 2018
What an amazing story of grit and dedication! We are relieved Keala is doing well! https://t.co/lQ8HLScfok
— Jackman's Landing (@JackmansLanding) November 28, 2018
I LOVE YOU SO MUCH KEALA 💕
— ؘ (@telmangl) December 2, 2018
— Bastii (@BroBastii) November 30, 2018
— Howard Sherman (@HESherman) November 28, 2018
OMG! Kudos to @kealasettle for carrying on with her #Oscars performance in spite of what she was going through. Never going to watch that clip the same way again. #TheGreatestShowman https://t.co/QDbhQ3z5wU
— DATVParty (@TVPartyPlanner) December 2, 2018
Now, Settle is determined to live every day to the fullest!
“The universe had its chance to take me and I’m still here. I’m just so grateful to be alive and I’m not giving that up.”