Is There a “Funny Side” of Parkinson’s?
We first heard about the BBC Documentary on Parkinson’s by comedy writer Paul Mayhew-Archer aptly named; ‘Parkinson’s: The Funny Side’ some time ago. Is there a funny side? Can we make jokes about this life changing disease?
The answer is yes!
Well, actually no…
The opening of the documentary starts with Paul, a 64-year-old writer and script editor for the BBC talking about the effects Parkinson’s has had on his life since being diagnosed in 2011. His upbeat and cheerful nature was welcoming and friendly, however somewhat unnerving knowing that deep down he must be concerned for his future well being.
His wife, Julie breaks down seconds after laughing and joking with Paul about her plans for his future. This puts the whole ordeal into perspective when the person directly afflicted with Parkinson’s can find a way to make the disease a focal point for his jokes, whereas his loved ones are finding it far more difficult to take lightly. Her exclamation of “We try not to think about it” shows us a dark-side to Paul’s jokey manner which is clearly there to distract them from the reality.
The documentary talks about the different symptoms that different people get from Parkinson’s and the plans they have to deal with them. A conversation came up about one woman being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in her fifties and her struggle to cope with the disease in the early stages. She then went on to reveal that although blighted with symptoms such as tremors, loss of voice, facial stiffness etc, Parkinson’s has opened up many different opportunities for her; like skydiving! She may not be able to walk or talk so well anymore, but when it comes to jumping out of a moving aircraft from 15,000 feet she’s all systems GO!
She talks about how, had she never been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, this is undoubtedly something that she would never have experienced. Apparently, the best thing about the day wasn’t the free-fall, it was the handsome instructor strapped to her back the whole way down that made her feel ‘very safe’!
Fascinating when children’s author John Foster discussed his new ‘Deep Brain Stimulation Device’ (DBS) he had recently had fitted. The small electronic device is placed in the patient’s chest and small wires are fitted which lead around the neck and connect into the brain; apparently now a fairly routine procedure. Similar to a pacemaker, the device can be turned on from an external source outside the body which in turn sends small electrical currents through the targeted brain area, altering the electronic signals in the brain that cause the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
The effect on Foster was astounding! He demonstrated what the symptoms were like when the machine was switched off. Suddenly, a man who appeared to have very little wrong with him showed the extreme signs of a Parkinson’s sufferer. The main symptom was the violent shaking of his arm, which in turn stopped virtually instantly as the DBS was turned back on. Most importantly, it’s a ‘non-destructive’ form of surgery which means it can be reversed if the treatment is unsuccessful.
The inspiration from this documentary is really good. A lot of the time it’s going to be pretty darn awful but you don’t have to let it ruin your life. There are a lot more classes and activities run by the council for people suffering with Parkinson’s as awareness grows. Whether it’s a class to help with your symptoms, to learn more about the disease or just go out and talk to people going through the same thing, there’s always something to do.
One class that’s gaining a lot of attention and is also featured in the documentary is ‘Ballet for Parkinson’s Sufferers’. This is proven to help with the physical symptoms as well as treating you to a good time where you can laugh, be a bit silly if it suits and to help you deal with your Parkinson’s if only for a little while.
Although you may have Parkinson’s, you can’t let Parkinson’s have you.
Love, Laugh, Learn, Do, try new things and talk to new people but most importantly, LIVE.
Parkinson’s: The Funny Side Documentary - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072xkcz