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Donna Gee - Spain's Grumpy Old Gran


The art of enjoying life with Parkinson's
20 September 2013 @ 11:30

Billy Connolly - his humour will help him through





I HOPE Billy Connolly will take this the right way, but I’d love to shake  his hand.

If his Parkinson’s symptoms are anything like mine, we wouldn’t even make contact!

As a fellow ‘victim’ (I quote the word ‘victim’ because I have no problem living with the condition), I want Billy to know that Parkinson’s is not the beginning of the end.

It’s the beginning of a new challenge…and a reason to be cheerful rather than fearful. Let’s face it, we’ll both die with it, not from it.

I’ve been living with Parkinson’s for four years, during which time my writing hand (the left) has developed a tremor which worsens as stress levels increase. As a result, I am often unable to write my name – particularly if someone else is looking on.

It’s embarrassing and also gives me an insight into how someone with severe  dyslexia must feel when faced with filling in a form.

The bonus for me is that, accompanied by my shakes, I have joined an art class near my home in Guardamar…and have amazed myself and my teacher Diana by producing very acceptable canvases using my RIGHT hand.

I prefer to shrug off the negatives. The left side of my body retains water, my hands are bloated and my legs are gradually weakening. I find it increasingly difficult to stand up from a sitting position and my neck, back and buttocks ache without a break.

That’s nothing to laugh about - but the consolation is that I can still lead an active life, unlike those who can’t stand up at all or are struck down by the likes of cancer, a stroke or a major heart attack.

In my case, the old heart is still pumping relatively satisfactorily, albeit with the aid of three stents in my coronary arteries. My response is to be grateful that the treatment for angina was carried out under national health cover, leaving me with, wait for it, more money than stents.

Billy Connolly is in a different league to me when it comes to making people laugh. But funny men are often the saddest of people away from public gaze. Remember Tony Hancock?

In the unlikely event of  Billy reading this article, I want him to know that nothing need change just because he has Parkinson’s.

I’m only a couple of years younger than him, yet manage to combine a limited  writing career with an active social life. But I’ll never have the sort of courage another comedy great, Bob Monkhouse, showed in the final weeks of his life.

Bob never lost his brilliant sense of humour and his legacy of laughter taught me to utilise every waking hour now that my body has begun to creak.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article in which I said I’d found a true inspiration in Monkhouse and believed that the best antidote to illness and ageing is laughter.

When Bob knew he was dying from prostate cancer, he not only kept smiling - he incorporated it into his act.

Not long before his death, he joked on Michael Parkinson’s chat show that when his doctor told him his illness was terminal, he asked: ‘How long do I have?’’

 ‘‘Ten,’’ said the doctor.

‘‘Is that weeks, months. what exactly?’’ asked Bob.

The doctor looked at his watch.

“Nine, eight, seven...’’

That wisecrack reignited my belief that when old age and/or illness strike, the most effective way to fight it is to have a little giggle about life, no matter how difficult that may be.

I half expected Monkhouse to throw in a line about his unique ‘sense of tumour’. He didn’t – but there's a fair bet he is up there in his celestial home right now haranguing St Peter with his one-liners.

In the meantime, I have told my kids and grandkids I want to hear them singing at my funeral, not being just plain miserable.

Top of my posthumous pop plan are a couple of choruses of  'Always Look on the Bright Side of Death’. And I have no objection if they want to throw in a line or two of ‘I Was What I Was’.

I won’t be able to join in, of course – but I’m sure I’ll hear it, wherever I’m not.

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing Billy Connolly presenting his own Parkinson Show.

Now that really would be taking the Michael.

Like 0


eggcup said:
20 September 2013 @ 20:02

Nice one Donna. You gave me a few laughs there. All the best.

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