Celebrities Who've Opened Up About Their Battles with Parkinson's Disease
Hear from those who are dealing with the effects of the disease every day
Alda kept his diagnosis private for a few years before revealing the news in 2018, and admitting that at first it was "scary." However, education and exercise have helped him cope with the initial shock.
“My life hasn’t changed much,” he said in 2019. “I just applied my curiosity to it. I’m constantly reading and trying to figure out the best approaches. So far it’s really interesting. I think it’s helped me understand a little better that everybody has something they’re coping with.”
In a 2020 interview with AARP the Magazine, Alda shared the steps he's taking to curb his symptoms.
"A lot of people hear they have Parkinson’s and get depressed and panicky and don’t do anything, just hoping it’ll go away. It’s not going to, but you can hold off the worst symptoms. Movement helps: walking, biking, treadmills. But also specific things: I move to music a lot." He added, "It's not the end of the world when you get this diagnosis."
"You know, with the world changing so rapidly, there’s no point in being optimistic or pessimistic about anything," he said. "You’ve just got to surf uncertainty, because it’s all we get."
The musician sat down with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America in January 2020, along with his family, to update his fans on his ongoing health battle.
“I did my last show New Year’s Eve at The Forum. Then I had a bad fall. I had to have surgery on my neck, which screwed all my nerves,” Ozzy began, before opening up about his diagnosis.
“It’s PRKN2,” wife Sharon further explained, adding that his disease is “not a death sentence by any stretch of the imagination.”
“It’s like you have a good day, a good day, and then a really bad day,” she continued.
Sharon also shared that Ozzy would be seeing a professional in Switzerland in April, who specializes in “getting your immune system at its peak” so he can return to making music for his fans.
“They’re my air, you know,” Ozzy said. “I feel better. I’ve owned up to the fact that I have — a case of Parkinson’s. And I just hope they hang on and they’re there for me because I need them.”
Despite Ozzy’s struggles, Sharon isn’t too hung up about her husband’s future.
“He’s gonna get back out there,” she said. “And he’s gonna do what he loves to do; I know it.”
The singer announced his diagnosis in January 2018, canceling the remainder of an upcoming world tour based on doctor's orders. But that wasn't going to stop him from continuing with his passion.
“I plan to remain active in writing, recording and other projects for a long time to come," Diamond said in the statement. "My thanks goes out to my loyal and devoted audiences around the world. You will always have my appreciation for your support and encouragement. This ride has been ‘so good, so good, so good’ thanks to you.”
Moved by their icon, fans in Australia and New Zealand who were issued tour ticket refunds were donating en masse to Parkinson's research organizations.
When Jackson announced his diagnosis in 2017 — three years after he began to "notice changes" and years after the disease "bested" his father, he said — the reverend promised it "wasn't a stop sign."
“This diagnosis is personal but it is more than that. It is an opportunity for me to use my voice to help in finding a cure for a disease that afflicts 7 to 10 million worldwide,” Jackson said, noting that about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year. His planned treatment includes physical therapy to slow the effects of the disease.
Michael J. Fox
One of the earlier famous faces to open up about Parkinson's was Fox, who was diagnosed in 1991. The actor has been vocal about his ups and downs, research and fundraising, and even launched his own foundation in 2000.
It's the ebb and flow of his symptoms that can get him, though. “I try not to get too New Age-y. I don’t talk about things being ‘for a reason.’ But I do think the more unexpected something is, the more there is to learn from it,” he said in 2018. “In my case, what was it that made me skip down the hallway to the kitchen thinking I was fine when I’d been in a wheelchair six months earlier? It’s because I had certain optimistic expectations of myself, and I’d had results to bear out those expectations, but I’d had failures too. And I hadn’t given the failures equal weight.”
In 2000 the singer noticed she was having vocal difficulties; by 2009 she retired and in 2013 she received her life-changing diagnosis. And it's changed her perspective on life, too.
“When you’ve been able to do certain things all your life, like put your shoes on and brush your teeth or whatever — when you can’t do that, you sort of go, ‘What’s this?’” she said earlier this year. “You know, what’s happening here? Come help me with this. And then you have to learn to ask people to help, and that — that took a little doing. But I do that now, because I need the help.”
The actor and comedian got candid in 2019, saying the realization that the disease is never going away was tough to handle.
“All my life I have got sick and I have got the flu and pneumonia various things and they all went away. This isn’t going anywhere. It is going to get worse," he told the Daily Mirror. "It takes a certain calm to deal with, and I sometimes don’t have it. I sometimes get angry with it, but that doesn’t last long, I just collapse in laughter.”
"I am at the point where the yesteryears mean more than the yesterdays," he continued. "Because it is back there in my childhood and youth when I go to all those things that made me that live keenest in my memory now.”
Cook announced in 2017 that he'd be stepping back from touring with his band Alabama due to the effects of Parkinson's.
“This disease robs you of your coordination, your balance, and causes tremors,” Cook said in his statement. “For me, this has made it extremely frustrating to try and play guitar, fiddle, or sing. I’ve tried not to burden anyone with the details of my condition because I do not want the music to stop or the party to end, and that won’t change no matter what. Let me say, I’m not calling it quits, but sometimes our bodies dictate what we have to do, and mine is telling me it’s time to take a break and heal.”