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Saturday 23 August 2014

Parkinson's won't get in way of Billy's work after cancer battle

Hannah Furness

Published 17/09/2013 | 05:00

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Legendary Scottish comedian Billy Connolly
Legendary Scottish comedian Billy Connolly pictured with his wife, Pamela Stephenson
Billy Connolly pictured in 1976 recording 'No Chance', with Geraldine Branagan and Phil Coulter

COMEDIAN Billy Connolly has undergone surgery for prostate cancer and is being treated for the early symptoms of Parkinson's disease, it has been confirmed.

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Connolly (70) is said to be receiving the "appropriate treatment" for Parkinson's, and is already "fully recovered" from an operation on the "very early stages" of cancer.

He is now recuperating in America, and plans to continue with a scheduled tour and television series in the "near future".

The comedian, known to fans as the Big Yin, is understood to be receiving medication for the initial symptoms of Parkinson's, which can include slowness of movement, rigidity and tremors.

A spokeswoman for the Glasgow-born star confirmed he had been assured his diagnosis would "in no way inhibit or affect his ability to work".

TERRIFYING

"Billy... will start filming a TV series in the near future, as well as undertaking an extensive theatrical tour of New Zealand in the new year," the spokeswoman said.

Dr Kieran Breen, director of research at Parkinson's UK, said the average lifespan of someone with Parkinson's is currently just three or four years less than a healthy member of the population.

He added it was not possible to diagnose how the disease would progress in any patient, with some living a "relatively normal life" for 20 or 25 years and others responding poorly to medication.

He emphasised sufferers died with Parkinson's rather than as a result of it, with the condition making people "less able to deal with external factors".

Earlier this year, Connolly spoke of beginning to forget his lines during performances, saying it was "f****** terrifying" and admitting, "I feel like I'm going out of my mind".

Singer Bob Geldof said his "great mate" would not be deterred by the diagnosis, telling a local news channel: "He's as strong as an ox mentally from everything he's been through as a kid.

"So I don't think this will deter him from being that individual that we know."

Memory loss is one possible symptom of Parkinson's, along with a tremor or fine shake while the person is at rest, rigidity of muscles, slowness of movement and unsteady balance. There is no cure yet, with scientists unable to work out why people get the condition, but the symptoms can be treated and controlled with medication and therapy.

Bob Hoskins, the actor, announced his retirement last year after being diagnosed with the disease.

Steve Ford, chief executive at Parkinson's UK, praised Connolly for choosing to speak out about the condition, with one person diagnosed every hour in the UK.

SUPPORT

"Put simply, Billy Connolly is a much-loved comedy legend and we are sorry to hear that he is being treated for the early symptoms of Parkinson's," he said.

"We salute Billy's bravery in speaking out about his condition at this difficult time.

"Many people, with the right medication, continue to live a full and active live with Parkinson's, but for some, it can be life changing and it is vital that Billy gets the support he needs to live with this complex condition.

"We wish Billy and his family all the best as they come to terms with this upsetting diagnosis."

Owen Sharp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said: "It is always concerning to hear that anyone is faced with prostate cancer, but it is very good news if Billy Connolly's treatment has been successful and we wish him the best in his recovery." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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