Less than a day after performing at the 2017 American Music Awards, her first performance since undergoing a kidney transplant this summer, Selena Gomez took the stage at the Lupus Research Alliance’s Breaking Through Gala where she spoke about her “life or death” struggle with the autoimmune disease.
The event, held in New York City on Monday night, honored Gomez, who is an honorary chair for the foundation, for her help in spreading awareness for the disease. After being diagnosed with lupus arthritis roughly five years ago, Gomez underwent a kidney transplant this year with the help of her friend, Francia Raisa.
Though Gomez assured that she is “very well now,” she warned about the dangers of not taking medical diagnoses seriously, like she initially did. “They said I would be needing a kidney transplant,” Gomez said. “Maybe I wasn’t necessarily really good at knowing what that meant, so it actually got to a point where it was life or death. Thankfully, one of my best friends gave me her kidney and it was the ultimate gift of life. And I am doing very well now.”
Along with encouraging people to see a doctor immediately if they experience lupus symptoms, Gomez also hopes that research evolves and future generations don’t have to undergo as serious procedures as kidney transplants to better their health. “I would love to see the day when young women can realize their dreams of life above lupus,” Gomez said, choking up.
In addition to Gomez, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke was also honored for the company’s $1 million donation to the alliance and lupus research. Though Burke praised the way NBCUniversal programs spread awareness about illnesses with “This Is Us” and “The Real Housewives” franchise (“make a positive impact on people’s lives”), he admitted that his shows and movies could never live up to the work that the Lupus Research Alliance does.
“[NBCUniversal] also knows how lucky we are and how fortunate I am that my job affords me the opportunity to be in contact with organizations such as this one that touches people’s lives in a way that is much more meaningful than any movie or television show could ever be,” Burke said. “It’s a privilege and not one I take lightly.”