When Alan Alda, star of “M*A*S*H“ and “The West Wing,” revealed he had Parkinson’s disease, he said he wanted to “reassure people“ diagnosed with the movement disorder that it’s still possible to do things. His words created a wave of empathy and validation that washed over the Parkinson’s community. “Wow. Even him, too?”
Three things happen for us when a celebrity opens up about a diagnosis and shares the fact of their chronic illness with us.
First, they help to destigmatize the disease. The condition becomes more visible and relatable. Suddenly, we see our friends and family changing their attitudes toward our condition, and even toward us.
Second, we feel more hopeful and inspired in our own life. Knowing that a celebrity is facing the same day-to-day struggles we do, all while under the glare of stardom, we are more endeared toward them. We especially feel a connection when they use their voice to bring visibility to Parkinson’s disease.
Finally, we feel empowered by the will of celebrities to step forward and take control of the narrative about their condition under intense media scrutiny. When they show the world what it means to live with Parkinson’s, they offer a road map and inspire confidence for how we might do the same.
Whether famous or not, the public acknowledgment of one’s disease is a brave act in the face of the stigma of chronic disease. As Parkinson’s disease awareness spreads, acceptance soon follows.
Is there a notable person who has inspired you? How do you feel about celebrities discussing their condition? Share in the comments below or post on MyParkinsonsTeam.