Scottish-born actor and comedian Sir Billy Connolly was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease five years ago. It was the same week he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He has since had successful surgery for the cancer but says Parkinson’s is the first thing he thinks about when he wakes up in the morning, adding that, “The thing that I find hardest is coming to grips with the fact that it’s never going to go away.” Daily Mail reported Sunday morning that Connolly has offered himself up as a “guinea pig” for research on the condition.
Connolly, who is known for his role as Dain in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and for the voice of Fergus in Disney’s Brave, says that he has spoken to researchers at Harvard about important and promising work they are doing with stem cells and Parkinson’s Disease.
“I’ve spoken to guys working on it at Harvard and told them I’d be a guinea pig for them. I think they are going to take me up on that.”
The 75-year-old now lives in Florida and was the target of a comment by his good friend and English commentator Michael Parkinson a couple of months ago when Parkinson said that Connolly had not recognized him the last time he saw him saying, “The sadness of Billy now is that wonderful brain is dulled,” according to a report from The Scotsman.
During an ITV documentary about his career, Billy Connolly spoke of a conversation with his doctor about his diagnosis.
“The doctor said to me ‘you realise this isn’t curable?’ and I thought ‘What a rotten thing to say to somebody’.”I always thought he should have said, ‘You realise we are yet to find a cure?’, to put a little light at the end of the tunnel. There’s a lot to be said for that.”
Over 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease every year. A chronic and progressive condition, it’s often described as a movement disorder but begins with changes in the brain that result in reduced levels of dopamine. Common symptoms include slowed movement, muscle rigidity, tremors, and confusion. There is currently no cure for the disease, but many methods of reducing its symptoms and possibly slowing its progress exist, including both prescription and other treatments. The cause of Parkinson’s Disease is also not known, but it’s believed that some medications and other toxins in the system may be factors in its development.