Author: Roisin McCormackPublished: 16 January 2020
Prep: Cook: Serves:
Most people can name at least one famous man with Parkinson’s, but can you name a famous woman? As part of our Women and Parkinson’s campaign, we highlight some of the women in the public eye who have lived with the condition, from the actress Valerie Perrine – who played a showgirl in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and a villain’s moll in ‘Superman’ – to US singer-songwriter, and friend of Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt
The seventies silver screen icon Valerie Perrine (pictured above) launched her career with a role as a Las Vegas showgirl in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971). She went on to star alongside some of the most celebrated actors of the time, including Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford and Christopher Reeve in the original ‘Superman’ film in 1978.
Now retired, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2015 and has since undergone deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery to try and reverse the effects of her tremor. A campaign, started on US crowdfunding site Indiegogo, saw fans try to fund a documentary about Valerie’s life, her hugely successful career, and her ongoing battle with Parkinson’s.
The Scottish-born star of classic cinema was best known for her roles in ‘The King and I’ (1956) and ‘An Affair to Remember’ (1957), co-starring Hollywood legend Cary Grant. Nominated for six Academy Awards, and winning two Golden Globe Awards, the star was diagnosed with Parkinson’s which she lived with until her death in 2007, aged 86.
Canadian rock singer Martha Johnson, best known as the lead vocalist in eighties new-wave band, Martha and the Muffins, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2001 at the age of 51. She continues to perform while raising funds for the condition – with a portion of the proceeds from her 2013 album ‘Solo One’ going towards the Michael J Fox Foundation. She regularly attends Rock Steady Boxing classes, and has supported the organisation through fundraising.
The 10-time Grammy Award winning US singer-songwriter, Linda Ronstadt, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s aged 66 shortly after retiring from music. The seventies star, whose top hits include ‘You’re No Good’ and ‘Blue Bayou’ has spoken candidly about how the development of Parkinson’s has robbed her of her voice but maintains that, “In my imagination, I can still sing”. A new documentary, titled ‘Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice’, released in September 2019 explores her life, work and friendships with fellow musicians including Dolly Parton.
English jazz saxophonist and composer Barbara Thompson, who was awarded an MBE for services to music, has worked closely with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber on shows including ‘Cats’ and ‘Starlight Express’. Having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1997, the musician was forced to retire from music for a short period before returning to the stage in 2003.
Despite being diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s in 2013, US glam rock singer-songwriter, actress and screenwriter Cait Brennan went on to release her critically acclaimed debut album ‘Debutante’ three short years later. While she undergoes intensive voice therapy to protect her voice and her ability to perform, she has said that when performing live on stage, she feels “absolutely free from any kind of discomfort or physical limitation”.
It is estimated that three million women worldwide are living with Parkinson’s – yet their specific needs and experiences are often ignored, leading to disparities in diagnosis, treatment and medication. Each week, we’ll be sharing the little-heard stories of women with the condition to find out how their lives are being affected by a shocking data gap when it comes to women and Parkinson’s. This is just the start.
We want to raise awareness of women’s experience of the condition within the medical profession, so that women’s symptoms are taken seriously.
We think more research is needed into the impact of Parkinson’s on women, so that they can benefit from tailored medication and treatment.
We want to explore ways to offer better support for those women managing the condition alongside caring responsibilities.
Join us – #WomenAndParkinsons.
For more information on women and Parkinson’s please visit the EPDA website.
If you have a story to tell about being a woman with Parkinson’s – or some information about the impact of the condition on women for us to share with the global Parkinson’s community – please get in touch.
Have you stopped receiving our weekly e-newsletter?
Due to new laws, you must sign up for our e-newsletter to keep receiving it
2 days ago
Students develop wearable device to track Parkinson’s tremors
A wearable device has been developed to monitor Parkinson’s tremors and their severity through the tracking of body movements. The device – Tremor Tracker – was created by two students, Julie Gaudin and Elizabeth Hummel, at Louisiana Tech University, US, as part of a design class project. The students designed an algorithm using data recorded from volunteer participants at Rock Steady, a boxing programme for people with Parkinson’s. They then applied the algorithm to a GENEActiv, a wrist-worn device that has been scientifically validated for clinical research. Hummel, co-creator of the Tremor Tracker, said: “Through supervised machine learning, the device predicts whether a patient’s tremors are parkinsonian or non-parkinsonian, as well as the severity of these tremors. A quantitative analysis of parkinsonian tremors provides a more detailed disease state.”
1 week ago
Can awakening dormant neurons reverse Parkinson’s motor symptoms?
Reawakening dormant neurons could help reverse Parkinson’s motor symptoms, researchers in South Korea have found. While Parkinson’s is typically believed to be caused by neuronal death, a new study – published in ‘Current Biology’ journal – suggests that dormant neurons could be another cause. After completing an animal test – which treated the subjects with two compounds that block dopamine-producing neurons from becoming dormant – the researchers found these neurons to be “awakened”, allowing them to resume dopamine production. The researchers hope that this will lead to a disease-modifying treatment, especially for people in the early stages of Parkinson’s. Hoon Ryu, a senior author of the study and researcher at KIST Brain Science Institute, South Korea, said: “This research refutes the common belief that there is no disease-modifying treatment for Parkinson’s due to its basis on neuronal cell death.”
Parkinson’s could be present from birth, study finds
Parkinson’s may be present from birth in younger people with the condition, new research has found. The study – conducted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, US, and published in ‘Nature Medicine’ journal – used induced stem cells from people with young-onset Parkinson’s, to grow dopamine-producing neurons and observe them for early warning signs of the condition. An abnormal pile-up of protein was found during the neurons’ development, including alpha-synuclein; which occurs in Parkinson’s. The scientists conjecture that Parkinson’s symptoms appear when the pile-up continues over 20 or 30 years. The team also found that the drug PEP005 – currently used against skin precancers – could help treat the condition. Michele Tagliati, vice chair and professor at Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Neurology and the study’s co-author, said: “This exciting new research provides hope that one day we may be able to detect and take early action to prevent this disease in at-risk individuals.”…