Bruce Willis' family has announced that the "Die Hard" star has been diagnosed with dementia in their first update in just over a year, when they revealed that he had aphasia, a neurological disorder that causes speech difficulties.
In a statement released by the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, Willis' wife and children said that since their announcement late last January, the beloved actor's condition has progressed and they "now have a more specific diagnosis: frontotemporal dementia (known as FTD)."
FTD is, as the statement notes, "the most common form of dementia" for people under the age of 60 — Willis is 67 — and can be difficult to diagnose, therefore making it likely that it's "much more prevalent than we know."
"FTD is a cruel disease that many of us have never heard of," the family wrote, "and can strike anyone."
Both this latest dementia diagnosis and Willis' prior aphasia diagnosis are huge blows because it means that he can no longer act due to memory, motor, and speech issues.
"Bruce always believed in using his voice in the world to help others, and to raise awareness about important issues both publicly and privately," the family's tear-jerking statement reads. "We know in our hearts that — if he could today — he would want to respond by bringing global attention and a connectedness with those who are also dealing with this debilitating disease and how it impacts so many individuals and their families. "
Since the Willis family issued their statement, there's been an outpouring of Hollywood support for the "Fifth Element" actor, and many of his celebrity fans lauded the family for turning tragedy into a means of awareness-raising.
"When people step forward it helps all of us," Maria Shriver, the former first lady of California, wrote in a Twitter post. "When people get a diagnosis it's extremely difficult, but also for most a relief to get a diagnosis."
Indeed, as heartbreaking as Willis' dementia diagnosis is, it will also serve to help shine a light on this tragic condition which, per the AFTD, an estimated 50-60,000 Americans have been diagnosed with.
The Willis family is handling this latest hurdle gracefully, and hopefully it will help demystify dementia for those who find themselves facing it in the coming months and years.
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