HGTV Stars Who Have Been Open About Their Health Issues

Watching them on HGTV as they renovate whole neighborhoods and bring joy to panicked homeowners, fans may feel they know the stars of their favorite remodeling shows as well as they know their own best friends. But behind the smiles, the on-screen antics, and the big reveals, your favorite hosts are real people with real flesh-and-blood problems, too. 

Twenty years ago, you may not have known that your favorite house flipper beat cancer, not once but twice, or that the stars suffer from panic and anxiety regardless of how brightly they seem to shine. But thanks to today's social media channels and infotainment outlets, it's easier to feel connected to your favorite celebrities than ever before. And truthfully, more and more public figures are speaking out as advocates to help others who may be facing the same struggles. This includes some of your favorite HGTV stars who have weighed in on everything from Lyme disease to old cheerleading injuries. Here's what we know. 

Hilary Farr spoke out in favor of patient self-advocacy after her decade-long battle with breast cancer

Hilary Farr has never been one to shy away from a good challenge. Whether she's fixing a homeowner's worst nightmare or facing off against co-host David Visentin on HGTV's "Love It or List It," Farr has always been ready with a sassy comeback. This, she says, is how she handles being at high risk for returning breast cancer.

First diagnosed in 2012, Farr has been battling the debilitating disease for more than a decade, having surgery after surgery as new lumps appeared. Through it all, she says, she persevered, owing much of her stoicism to her upbringing. "I was brought up and taught to be 'stiff upper lip and barrel through,'" she told SurvivorNet. Now, however, she feels that may have been a mistake. "There were just so many repercussions of choosing to push through without telling everybody: 'Here's what I'm going through right now,'" Farr says of her time filming "Love It or List It." She recounts feeling "short-tempered," "in pain," and "exhausted" much of the time.

Today, Farr is an advocate for patients speaking up for themselves upon receiving devastating diagnoses, something she feels she could have done better. "Once you can face your fear, you know what you're dealing with, what you're grappling with, then you will not allow a doctor to say, 'You're all done, off you go!' You will be taking control which is so empowering."

Jonathan Knight struggled with ongoing digestive issues before becoming vegetarian

HGTV fans know him as the energetic host of "Farmhouse Fixer." But before he ever stepped foot on the set of his rural renovation show, Jonathan Knight was the self-proclaimed "fat" member of New Kids on the Block, the mostly-90s boy band that shot to stardom with such hits as "Step by Step" and "I'll Be Loving You."

In an exclusive 2016 interview with ET, Knight recounted his vegetarianism and how it helped to resolve his history of digestive issues. "I would eat then just feel really nasty," he shared. "The doctor was always like, 'I don't know what's wrong with you.' They couldn't diagnose anything. Then just from eating clean, healthy, organic that has gone away."

Today, Knight is the happy, healthy host of HGTV's "Farmhouse Fixer" which is set to air Season 3 sometime in 2024. He's also adjusting to married life, having tied the knot with long-time partner Harley Rodriguez in 2022. Fans can look for Knight in the upcoming "Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge" airing on HGTV in July 2022.

Genevieve Gorder uses exercise and nutrition to stave off symptoms of Lyme disease and Hashimoto's disease

Genevieve Gorder of "Design Star" fame says she uses physical activity, including trampoline classes, tennis, and yoga to help her deal with the burden of having two separate autoimmune diseases.

Initially diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2010, Gorder later learned she also had Hashimoto's disease. "It's terribly emotional and really scary because there aren't enough definitive answers as to what do I do next, how do I handle this, how do I get better?" she told People. To protect her body and ease the symptoms of both conditions, Gorder turned to healthy food and exercise. "When I exercise, I feel the best," she said. "I have to always be a little bit more stringent on that than most people because of my buddies that are partying inside of me."

Though her Lyme disease is currently in remission, Gorder went public on Facebook in 2019 to announce her partnership with Terminix and to encourage fans to reach out for medical help early if they suspect they may have contracted the dangerous tick-borne disease.

Mina Starsiak Hawk of Good Bones developed diastasis recti during her second pregnancy

Mina Starsiak Hawk has always been open regarding her fertility struggles, sharing videos of doctor's appointments, triumphs, and disappointments on her show "Good Bones." Mom to Jack and Charlotte, it's no surprise Hawk recounted her issues with a condition known as diastasis recti to House Beautiful.

Diastasis recti is common during and after pregnancy and typically causes a bulge or pooch to form across the front of the abdomen. The condition develops when the uterus stretches to accommodate the growth of the baby. But a stretched uterus isn't the only condition that can cause diastasis recti. Sometimes, weight-lifting or abdominal exercises can contribute, if they're done incorrectly.

Fortunately, neither Hawk nor her child suffered any serious complications from the condition, other than feelings of low self-esteem after delivery, as she mentioned to People. "My C-section scar was a very visual and physical reminder of not looking like myself and not feeling like myself anymore." As a result, the athletic host opted for a round of cosmetic surgery to help restore her confidence.

Tarek El Moussa shared his struggles as a two-time cancer survivor

Tarek El Moussa has had a tough decade. First, in 2013, he was diagnosed with both thyroid and testicular cancer. Later, the dissolution of his marriage to "Flip or Flop" co-host Christina Hall was carried out in a very public way, leading, indirectly, to the end of the show they filmed together.

But El Moussa has been quick to bounce back, nailing down a new show for HGTV titled, "Flipping 101 with Tarek El Moussa" and later, "The Flipping El Moussas" with new wife Heather Rae Young. He recently spoke with People, saying both cancers are in remission and that he's never felt better in his life, citing a combination of clean eating, vitamins, and exercise as aiding him in his recovery. 

El Moussa is also quick to credit his wife with much of his ability to recover. "Heather has made a lot of changes in my life. She feeds me, cooks for me, she tells me what to eat, she makes sure I'm taking my vitamins. She's all over it," he said.

Galey Alix overcame a nearly fatal eating disorder

Host of "Home in a Heartbeat," Galey Alix is not your typical HGTV star. She's an executive with Goldman Sachs through the week and a DIY warrior on the weekend, invading the homes of eager fans to work her magic makeovers in just three days.

Fans love her work, hence the millions of followers on social media, and Alix herself says it's her weekend design business that keeps her going. For years, Alix struggled with an eating disorder and bouts of depression that nearly killed her, the realization coming just weeks before her wedding. She described her thought process at the time to Forbes. "They say graves are buried 6 feet under the ground right? I felt like I was buried alive in a cave somewhere below those six feet under the ground. It was so low and so dark, I couldn't crawl out no matter how hard I tried," she said.

But crawl out she did, and today, Alix credits her many ardent followers with leading her out of the paralyzing darkness. "Saving their homes is actually what saved me. It made me feel like I had something to live for again," she revealed.

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who does, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Home Town's Erin Napier battled panic attacks

To watch "Home Town" star Erin Napier, fans would never know she experienced panic and anxiety. The perky and always optimistic Napier is an accomplished watercolor artist, in addition to the beautiful design work she does on set with her husband, Ben. However, in early 2022, Napier shared a post on Instagram regarding the lingering side effects of a perforated appendix, which she unknowingly struggled with for nearly a decade. "My brain, without my permission, sets off on a fight or flight mission to save my life, when my life is not in any danger at all. Panic attacks and spiraling thoughts come rushing in," she wrote.

Napier confessed she thought the surgery to remove her appendix would resolve her issues, but unfortunately, it seemed to trigger more issues: "It left some deep ruts in my neuro pathways that have left me with an extreme fear and preoccupation with sickness, nausea in particular, ever since."

Still, in her eternally optimistic way, Napier ended her post with a final, happy thought. "We've all got our personal struggles. But isn't it so nice to have this place for editing the hard parts out? Like seeing the people you love most gathered around your hospital bed, there's always a light in the darkness," she shared.

Joanna Gaines underwent back surgery two weeks before Christmas in 2022

Joanna Gaines, designer, entrepreneur, and co-host of "Fixer Upper" often alludes to her teenage years and the joys she experienced as a cheerleader. However, her past caught up with her when she shared an Instagram post of herself in a hospital bed four days before Christmas in 2022, where she referenced an old basket-toss injury. "I had my first microdisectomy [sic] in 2001," she wrote. "And had to cancel my second date with Chip Carter Gaines and then had the same procedure on another disc two weeks ago."

In typical Jo fashion, however, her back surgery didn't keep her down for long, and she was soon back on social media, posting about mini renovations, baby goats, and spring planting. But her injury did renew public interest regarding the dangers of cheerleading. According to Geisinger, cheerleading accounts for roughly 30,000 injuries every year, with ankle, knee, and head injuries topping the list. 

Lara Spencer sported an orthopedic boot after surgery to repair a torn plantar plate and ligament

Lara Spencer may now spend her mornings as the effervescent co-anchor of "Good Morning America," but once upon a time, she was the host of HGTV's "Flea Market Flip," where contestants faced off to renovate flea market finds and resell them for the biggest profit. And while the big reveals were valuable parts of the show, it was always Spencer's warm sense of humor and enthusiasm for reclaimed treasure that kept fans tuning in, which is why it comes as no surprise that her Instagram account boasts nearly half a million followers.

Recently, Spencer published an Instagram post that featured an image of her backstage at ABC Studios wearing what could only be an orthopedic boot. Her cryptic caption, "Between stories" ignited fans' curiosity and prompted a barrage of well wishes and reassurances that she made the clunky medical device actually look good.

It was later revealed that Spencer had recently had surgery to repair a torn plantar plate and ligament, following an injury she received in December 2022 (via Instagram).

Christina Hall was diagnosed with mercury and lead poisoning

It's no secret that Christina Hall of "Christina on the Coast" takes exceptional care of herself. And being a mother, her physical health is more important to just herself and her fans, but her three small children are invested, too.

That's why fans were stunned to learn that the bubbly host was struggling with the aftereffects of mercury and lead poisoning, a severe illness that causes confusion, joint pain, headaches, and more. She blamed her diagnosis on her history of touring dilapidated houses like those she encountered during her days on "Flip or Flop." Worst of all, however, was the inability to diagnose her symptoms correctly. "It has been written off as stress and doctors have tried to put me on all the pills/meds but luckily I realized masking it wasn't the answer," she wrote on Instagram in 2021.

Hall insisted on digging deeper until she eventually got the answers she needed, and she encourages her fans to do the same. "I've talked to a lot of people about this and just want to advocate how important it is to trust your own health instincts and not ignore things going on in your body," she shared.

Ben Napier took to Instagram to praise his at-home nursing staff

Home renovation is a rough-and-tumble job, as Ben Napier, one-half of the husband and wife duo that co-hosts HGTV's "Home Town" can attest. In April, he posted a short video to Instagram of himself shirtless with an abundance of child-themed adhesive strips scattered across one shoulder. His caption read: "I've got the BEST nursing staff at my house. Gonna be good in no time."

According to his wife Erin Napier, the couple's daughter, Helen, chose the special bandages to make her dad feel better. In her own separate Instagram post, Erin listed the procedures her husband had recently endured, including having his rotator cuff repaired, a bone spur shaved off, and some cartilage trimmed. Her post also alluded to little Helen's early nursing skills and shared an image of her husband reclining on the couch, surrounded by pillows and stuffed animals. In the photo, Ben Napier wears a sling on his left shoulder and the smile of a very comfortable man.

Cherie Barber says she lives in fear of dying an asbestos-related death

For two seasons from 2015 to 2016, Cherie Barber hosted "Five Day Flip" on HGTV. In the show, the Australian-based house flipper would completely renovate an aging home in a mere five days, flipping it for numbers ranging in the six figures. 

In real life, Barber is a small powerhouse, not much unlike her onscreen persona. In her home country of Australia, she's known as the "Renovation Queen" and has had many close calls with disaster, including a brush with an asbestos wall in Sydney when she was still in her twenties. "I very distinctly recall sanding this wall in a little character cottage in Balmain," she recounted to the Daily Mail in November 2022. "I was completely covered in dust ... I later came to discover that the wall was an asbestos wall."

While her first reaction was one of horror, Barber went on to say she now lives in fear of dying from asbestos exposure, just as her grandfather did before her. She urges homeowners to leave renovation to professionals if they fear their home could be a source of asbestos.