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Céline Dion, an icon of song, has had a meteoric career peppered with numerous personal tragedies. Today, afflicted by a rare disease, she is engaged in a relentless battle to return to the stage.

Born on March 30, 1968, in Charlemagne, Quebec, Céline is the youngest in a modest family of 14 children. From a young age, surrounded by music, she developed an exceptional singing talent. At just 12, she recorded her first song, Ce n’était qu’un rêve (It Was Only a Dream), which her mother Thérèse and brother Jacques had written. This marked the beginning of a rapid and flourishing career trajectory.

Céline Dion’s fate took a pivotal turn when her mother sent a demo tape to René Angélil, a renowned producer. Captivated by her voice, he decided to bet everything on her, even mortgaging his house to finance her first album — a risky move that proved successful.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Céline Dion enjoyed a string of successes, first in Quebec and then internationally. With her powerful, crystalline voice brimming with emotion, she became a staple in both the Francophone and Anglophone music scenes. Hits like If That’s What It Takes, My Heart Will Go On and If Only Love Could Be Enough became timeless classics.

However, behind the glamour, awards and standing ovations, Céline Dion faced her share of personal tragedies. In January 2016, she lost the love of her life, her husband and mentor René Angélil, to throat cancer at the age of 73 — a devastating loss for the singer who had married René in 1994 despite a 26-year age gap. Days after this tragedy, she suffered another blow with the death of her brother Daniel to cancer.

Despite immense grief, Céline found strength in her music and her audience’s love, and returned to the stage with emotional performances. Her Courage World Tour, which began in September 2019, was a resounding success, with thousands of fans gathering each night to connect with their idol.

In December 2022, Céline faced another challenge when she was diagnosed with stiff-person syndrome (SPS), a rare neurological disorder primarily affecting middle-aged women. Characterized by progressive muscle stiffness and painful spasms, the disease can lead to significant mobility issues.

Facing this new challenge with exemplary courage, Céline and her medical team are working tirelessly to fight the disease and regain her physical and vocal capabilities. The treatment regimen is rigorous, including immunosuppressants, intensive physiotherapy and speech therapy exercises. It is a demanding battle that has forced her to pause her career.

In a heartfelt video on her social networks, Céline shared her daily struggles, “I work very hard every day with my medical team to regain my strength and ability to perform again, but it is a constant battle. This disease affects every aspect of my life, sometimes making it difficult to walk and preventing me from using my vocal cords to sing as I would like.”

Despite her determination, Céline had to cancel all her concerts scheduled until 2024 to focus on her recovery — a heartbreaking decision for an artist who thrives on stage and audience interaction. However, her health remains her top priority.

In her first interview since announcing her diagnosis, Céline told Vogue France that she is “well” but taking life “one day at a time.” She undergoes athletic, physical and vocal therapy five days a week to manage her condition. While there is no cure for SPS, Céline hopes that scientific research will one day find a way to cure it. For now, she is learning to live with the disease and focusing on her recovery.

When asked about her ability to return to the stage, Céline said that she “can’t answer that” right now and that her body will tell her when she’s ready. She made a surprise appearance at the Grammy Awards in February 2023, presenting the Album of the Year award to Taylor Swift.

To increase awareness of this rare and debilitating disease, Céline Dion agreed to be documented by a team of filmmakers. The film, I Am: Céline Dion, set to be released on June 25, 2024 on Amazon Prime Video, will capture her journey from diagnosis through her moments of doubt, pain, hope and resilience.

Currently distanced from the stage by her illness, Céline Dion has not had her final word yet. She will undoubtedly turn this ordeal into another triumph.