Billy Connolly opens up about his battle with Parkinson's: "being unwell is strange"

Virgin Radio

9 Feb 2024, 15:40

L to R: Billy Connolly

Credit: Getty

Comedian shares health update on his ongoing struggle with Parkinson's disease.

Renowned comedian Billy Connolly, 81, has given fans a candid health update as he continues to grapple with Parkinson's disease, a condition he was diagnosed with a decade ago.

Connolly, also known as the Big Yin, disclosed that he has faced challenges, including serious falls, as the symptoms of Parkinson's have progressed.

In a heartfelt interview with his wife Pamela Stephenson, he acknowledged the strange and unpredictable nature of being unwell.

Billy, who received a dual diagnosis of prostate cancer on the same day but later received the all-clear, shared his perspective on the impact of illness.

Speaking to GB News, he remarked: "Being unwell is strange. Everybody else is OK, and you've got this thing that's wrong... you're out of step."

Reflecting on his personal experience, Connolly highlighted the difficulties posed by the degenerative condition.

He acknowledged a noticeable deterioration in his balance, a symptom that has become more pronounced over the last year.

"For some reason, I thought it would go away, because a lot of symptoms have come and gone away... just to defy the symptom spotters. The shaking has reappeared," he explained.

Connolly humorously drew parallels between his falls and a joke from his stand-up routine, stating: "It's funny, that fall I had when I landed on my jaw reminded me of a thing I used to do on stage. I used to say, 'I fell out of bed, but luckily my face broke my fall.'"

Despite his resilient spirit and trademark humour, Billy Connolly candidly expressed the challenges posed by Parkinson's disease.

He acknowledged feeling encroached upon by the illness, affecting his ability to perform everyday activities.

"I feel like I want to go for a walk, but I go 50 yards and want to go home because I'm tired. I'm being encroached upon by this disease. It's creeping up behind me and stopping me from doing things. It's a cruel disease," he shared.

Billy Connolly, originally a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, transitioned to a successful career as a folk singer and later became a global comedy sensation in the 1970s.

Despite his illness preventing live performances, Connolly has redirected his creativity into visual arts.

In his reflections on old age, Connolly acknowledged the unpredictability of growing old.

He jokingly remarked: "Suddenly you can't walk anymore. Can't run. Can't jump. It's a weird and nasty surprise."

Despite the challenges, he appreciates the support he receives, stating: "People seem to drive me places. And that's great."

For those that are unaware of Connolly's condition, the NHS describe Parkinson's disease as a neurodegenerative condition affecting nerve cells controlling movement in the brain.

Over time the symptoms gradually get worse. It can cause symptoms related to movement as well as pain, depression and loss of smell.

One in 37 people alive today in the UK will be diagnosed with Parkinson's in their lifetime and Parkinson's UK estimates there are 145,000 Brits living with the condition.

Connolly's openness about his health journey raises awareness about Parkinson's and the impact it has on individuals and their families.