Billy Connolly diagnosed with Parkinson's: The thing about the disease is that everyone is different

Parkinson's disease has become an essential part of who I am

Matt Eagles
Tuesday 17 September 2013 11:18
Billy Connolly opts for a smart moustache and beard combination that matches his long grey hair
Billy Connolly opts for a smart moustache and beard combination that matches his long grey hair

I was only eight years old when I became one of the youngest people in Britain to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

My parents were devastated, but given doctors had previously said they thought it was a brain tumour, in some ways I’m sure it was a relief for them. It’s very strange when you begin to realise something is wrong. In my case, it started in my foot. It was bending in an odd way, but at first it seemed quite innocuous.

I developed a really bad problem with my balance, which is quite a common symptom. It looks like you’re drunk. In a way, I felt a bit like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz – I needed medication to help me move. But the drugs kept the Parkinson’s reasonably stable when I was growing up, which was tricky.

I’m 44 now and my main symptoms are muscle rigidity and I twitch quite a lot. But the thing about Parkinson’s is that everyone is different. A lot of people don’t shake.

Billy Connolly is so active on stage and I’m sure this isn’t going to stop him. It’s impossible to predict how it might affect him; he might find that it affects his memory or his voice – it can even affect the size of your writing.

I took voluntary redundancy from my publishing job in April, but I’m now struggling to get work. The word “Parkinson’s” is like a nemesis – you can’t mention it. I’ve been advised to take it off my CV, but it’s an essential part of who I am. The main thing is being positive and doing as much as you can. I don’t see myself as being poorly – it’s something that I deal with every day.

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