Lena Dunham was recently spotted walking with a cane due to an Ehlers-Danlos syndrome flare-up
Jemima Kirke is proud of her friend.
“People need to understand that the only thing that really stands between anyone and success is their health, and that’s what Lena’s talking about now,” Kirke told PEOPLE at the Tribeca Chanel Women’s Filmmaker Program Luncheon in New York City on Monday. “She’s not talking about her looks or her social life or her love life, she’s talking about the only real thing that can stand between a woman and her dreams and that’s her health. And that’s the thing that she struggles with every day.”
“She always strives to express how normal she is, which I think is really important and really refreshing in this celebrity culture,” Kirke added at the 5th annual event that brings together women in entertainment, hosted by Chanel and Jane Rosenthal, CEO of Tribeca Enterprises.
Last Friday, Dunham, 33, was leaving a doctor’s appointment in Los Angeles when paparazzi photographed her holding a cane. The actress decided to address her situation directly and shared the photo on Instagram to explain that she’s struggling with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a rare disorder that causes weak and painful joints, and loose skin.
“The truth is just: This is what life is like when I’m struggling most with chronic illness,” she wrote. “An Ehlers-Danlos syndrome flare means that I need support from more than just my friends… so thank you, sweet cane!”
Dunham said that choosing to use a cane was a big step.
“For years, I resisted doing anything that would make my physical situation easier, insisting that a cane would ‘make things weird.’ But it’s so much less weird to actually be able to participate than to stay in bed all day,” she said.
On Monday, Kirke said her friend was doing “great” and commended her use of the cane, as well.
“It looks like a nice way to get around,” she told PEOPLE. “I think it looks cool on her.”
Between her Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and endometriosis, Dunham is innately familiar with life with a chronic illness. In Nov. 2017, after years of endometriosis pain, she underwent a full hysterectomy to remove her uterus. She later had her left ovary removed as well to address lingering pain, and during her recovery, Dunham said she developed a “dependency” to the anti-anxiety medication Klonopin.
In April, after going to rehab, she celebrated one year of sobriety.
“Sobriety hasn’t fixed my world. Life is still challenging — that’s the nature of the game,” she wrote on Instagram. “But every day I am surprised by the richness and depth of, well, reality. I don’t need to escape this beautiful carnival. Instead, I’m on the ride.”