Ali & Fox don’t let PD get them down | Parkinson’s Disease Blog

Some authors I’ve met such as swashbuckling action ace Clive Cussler enjoy research as much or more than writing and the topic of Parkinson’s Disease and related disorders demands plenty.

An affliction as troublesome to sufferers and mysterious and insidious in its relentless attack on increasing numbers of the world’s people cries out for a cure. Our 50,000 or more new cases annually do not even have an accurate expectation of PD’s course. It is incurable, but not terminal unless some complication results in death. Many people suffer varying degrees of severity.

Once diagnosed, I began telling friends my news and their reactions were surprising to say the least. “Why, I have a number of friends and clients who have it and I had no idea until they brought it up,” says Claudia, an advertising and graphic designer. “They follow a course of treatment and there doesn’t seem to be a noticeable set of symptoms. I was shocked to learn they had it.

Others are not so fortunate. A variety of medications bring relief to many but may need to be changed or adjusted if their effectiveness diminishes. Physical therapy including yoga and tai chi, oriental disciplines known for centuries, can be helpful.

Research into other forms of therapy and study of possible root causes including hereditary disposition requiring mailing a saliva sample for analysis, and drilling holes in the skull are being explored. (Your spit sample will be sent postage paid, by the way.) Seven sites around the nation are designated as centers for that study including Fountain Valley, Calif., but the more unorthodox concepts are only cited to support the widespread research underway. These organizations and many other sources for information on PD and related diseases involving brain chemistry are available on the internet.

Just the other night I was on the Internet browsing Parkinson’s news and posts when there was a face that seemed familiar, but not the one I remembered from the summer of 1962, when we met at a news function I was covering.


parkinson's diseaseHe was Cassius Clay then–later to convert to Islam and become Muhammad Ali–three-time world heavyweight boxing champion and one of the most controversial and remarkable men of the 20th Century. We were both 22 years old and Clay was an obnoxious loudmouth whom I disliked heartily. We were at the Busch Gardens brewery in Los Angeles for a press conference announcing his turning pro after taking the Olympic Heavyweight boxing Championship. He acted 12 instead of 22, crowing how great and “pretty” he was and demanding a dozen free 8 X 10 copies of every picture I shot.

Over the decades I came to admire Ali and his anti- Vietnam War activism, as well as his philanthropy and Parkinson’s support. He suffers “Parkinsonism,” by the way, a similar affliction blamed on head trauma from boxing or football. “Disease” is not specified here.

In the newer photo at a Parkinson’s benefit event, Ali has almost no expression or facial animation, a characteristic symptom. But who is this short little Irish pug in the ring with him, bare fists clenched Dublin ring style, but actor, author, producer and Parkinson’s philanthropist Michael J. Fox. They make a scrappy pair, but of course lt’s a staged photo because in 1962 Mike was only a toddler.

His case is unique because he was diagnosed in 1991, only 30 years old, when 60 is about the average onset. So here you have three guys who have Parkinson’s in common, and not one of them finished college, but they don’t let it get them down. Ali and Fox had already made fortunes and built mansions. But I prefer to quote Michael J. Fox in a variation of the sentiment I have repeated to myself many times in recent months.“I have people ask if I say to myself, Why me? And I tell them, Why not me?”

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