Bruce Willis’s wife has described feeling like she was able to “breathe” again after sharing his dementia diagnosis with the world.
It was announced in February the 68-year-old Hollywood star had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), which causes changes to personality, behaviour, language and movement.
In an essay written for Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, the actor’s wife Emma Heming Willis said that “as hard as it was to come forward” it was what her family “so desperately needed”.
“In the weeks leading up to our February 2023 announcement that Bruce was living with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), I struggled with whether and how to come forward with this difficult chapter in our story,” she said.
“Yet after our family shared the news, I felt like I could breathe.”
Heming Willis, who was raised in London and has a British father, said that while her husband’s diagnosis was “devastating”, it had “explained so much of what we’d been going through”.
Being able to share the news also meant the family “wasn’t alone any more” and could seek support, she said.
The 45-year-old said it had allowed her to turn her grief into an opportunity to raise awareness of FTD and help other families going through the same.
“The world needs to know that not all dementia is Alzheimer’s and that not all dementia impacts memory,” she said.
Heming Willis added she struggled with “guilt” due to having resources that others don’t.
“When I’m able to get out for a hike to clear my head, it’s not lost on me that not all care partners can do that,” she said.
“When what I share about our family’s journey gets press attention, I know that there are many thousands of untold, unheard stories, each of them deserving of compassion and concern.
“At the same time, I see that what I share matters to others who may be struggling, and in a small way makes them feel seen and understood.”
Bruce Willis starred in more than 100 films over four decades, appearing in box office hits including Pulp Fiction, Die Hard and The Sixth Sense.