The creator of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” the long-running animated series that has been a fixture on Nickelodeon since bowing as a Saturday morning cartoon in 1999, revealed that he has been diagnosed with ALS.
Variety reports that Stephen Hillenburg, 55, shared the news of his diagnosis in a statement.
“I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS, Hillenburg says in the statement. “Anyone who knows me knows that I will continue to work on ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ and my other passions for as long as I am able. My family and I are grateful for the outpouring of love and support. We ask that our sincere request for privacy be honored during this time.”
Variety adds: “A source close to Hillenburg said he received the diagnosis recently and is in the early stages of the disease. ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a rare terminal illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.”