‘Beyond Breathless’: Queen Latifah Opens Up About The Disease That Took Her Mother’s Life

‘Beyond Breathless’: Queen Latifah Opens Up About The Disease That Took Her Mother’s Life

Award-winning actress, musician, and TV producer Queen Latifah opens up in the A&E documentary Beyond Breathless to help spread awareness about the interstitial lung disease (ILD) that claimed her mother’s life.

Backed by the Boehringer Ingelheim pharmaceutical company, the film spotlights the experiences of real people living with rare ILDs, as well as their families, caretakers, and healthcare providers. Latifah’s decision to participate in the film has much to do with the loss of her mother, Rita Owens, who died from an ILD associated with the autoimmune disease scleroderma in 2018.

“My mom struggled with scleroderma, especially after it progressed to her lungs, and that made it difficult for her to breathe,” said Queen Latifah in a statement.

“Anything my mom could do to help someone else have an easier journey with their disease, she wanted to be a part of—so it’s important for me to carry on my mom’s mission. My hope is that for those living with this disease or caring for someone they love that they know they’re not alone in this fight.”

ILD encompasses more than 200 lung disorders resulting in pulmonary fibrosis, including scleroderma, a build-up of scarring in the lungs. Like many others, Latifah and her family were unaware of the signs and symptoms of the disease. In fact, while her mother struggled, it was difficult to get an accurate diagnosis from a medical professional.

“It was so difficult just to get a diagnosis,” Latifah told Ebony.

“When we went to the hospital for the first time, it was like ‘your heart is not pumping the way it should.’ There were drugs that she was given [that did get a response], but there was something that wasn’t right, other things weren’t coming up right. Something was going on with those lungs. And once they started to look at the lungs and what was happening, that’s when we found this interstitial lung disease.”

Latifah explained that ILD symptoms are similar to those of other, more common respiratory conditions.

“It’s basically, a scarring of the lungs, and your lungs have to be soft and supple in order to [receive] oxygen. And so eventually, my mom had to go on oxygen,” Latifah continues. “This was a big learning experience for me and my family. We hadn’t heard of these things. We had to do research.”

Latifah’s cousin Tina, Ms. Owens’ caregiver, joins her in the documentary to explain their struggles with the disease.

Beyond Breathless is just a way for us to give you a glimpse into our lives and what it was like for us and, hopefully, make it a bit easier for others who may have experienced this or, hopefully, give them a chance to catch it before it gets too far down the line.”