Sir Billy Connolly’s devastating battle with Parkinson’s

He's admitted his symptoms are 'getting worse'

Billy Connolly

by Lorna White |

Ever since we heard the very sad news that Sir Billy Connolly has been battling Parkinson's since 2013, we’ve been inspired by his bravery and approach to the terrible disease.

The incurable condition causes parts of the brain to become progressively damaged over years.

Billy opens up

After receiving a lifetime achievement award at The Edinburgh TV Festival, he admitted that his symptoms are worsening.

“The challenges lately have been medical. They’re getting worse. You’ll notice I’ve been holding my left hand – it’s starting to jump around. I have to weigh it up and see how bad it gets.”

Speaking about the prospect of death in an interview with the Sun, he said, "I think about death a lot. Not an excessive amount. I think about it every day.

"I’ve seen people die and it’s OK. It’s not painful. You just go away. You exhale and it’s gone. It’s nothing to be frightened of. It’s just the next step."

Sadly, Billy has previously admitted he has contemplated suicide on numerous occasions since being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

Asked in 2016 if he has ever thought about ending his life, he said: "Yeah sometimes I give it a bit of thought when I'm in bed. I think, 'Well this is forever, this isn't going to get better, it's going to get worse.' But then I try and change my mind and I try and meditate and move away from it sideways.

"The guy who told me I had it said to me 'You know it's incurable?' I thought he could have said 'We have yet to find a cure' or something like that to put a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I'm okay at the moment but it comes and goes. Sometimes I have trouble getting out of bed and I walk strangely. Turning over (in bed) is difficult. Turning from one side to the other can be quite complicated."

Made in Scotland

In his touching BBC documentary series, Made in Scotland, Billy reflected on his life and career.

The comedian also opened up about living with Parkinson’s saying, "my life, it's slipping away and I can feel it and I should. I'm 75 (he’s now 79), I'm near the end.

"I'm a damn sight nearer the end than I am the beginning. But it doesn't frighten me, it's an adventure and it is quite interesting to see myself slipping away.

"As bits slip off and leave me, talents leave and attributes leave. I don't have the balance I used to have, I don't have the energy I used to have. I can't hear the way I used to hear, I can't see as good as I used to. I can't remember the way I used to remember.”

Speaking about Parkinson's, he said: "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."

Billy's methods for controlling his Parkinson's

During an interview with the Radio Times, Billy explained how he's learnt some unusual methods to help control his Parkinson's. When he starts to shake, he stops what he’s doing and faces it down.

“I’ve learned to hypnotise my hand,” he explained. “I glare at it and it kinda quivers. I just stare at it, and eventually it stops. It’s quite a good trick. We love it."

On finding a cure

As we know, Parkinson’s sadly has no cure meaning it can be a very heartbreaking disease to live with. Billy has previously revealed he is willing to be a “guinea pig” if it means finding a cure.

He admitted he's been in contact with stem cell scientists at Harvard University about using him to advance their research and, hopefully, in the long run, discover a cure for the condition.

Parkinson opens up about his sad meeting with friend Billy Connolly

Billy's close friend, former presenter Sir Michael Parkinson has previously opened up about how Billy is, saying he was saddened during a recent meeting in New York when Billy did not know who he was.

Speaking on Saturday Morning with James Martin, Michael said: "The sadness of Billy now is that wonderful brain is dulled.

"I saw him recently - he's now living in America - and it was very sad, because I was presenting him with a prize at an award ceremony.

"We had an awkward dinner together because I wasn't quite sure if he knew who I was or not. We were walking out after the presentation to go down and have our picture taken, and he turned to me and put his hand on my shoulders."

Michael and Billy have been close friends for years, after Billy made a number of appearances on his famous talk show, Parkinson, which ran from 1971 to 1982 and from 1998 to 2007, and he found the experience with his pal deeply upsetting.

He added: "And to know someone as long as I knew and loved Billy… it was an awful thing to contemplate, that that had been taken from him in a sense. He was just a genius and the best thing that happened to me on the show."

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