Alan Alda Reveals He Has Parkinson's Disease

On Tuesday, actor Alan Alda revealed on “CBS This Morning” that he has Parkinson’s disease.

Alda, who starred in “M*A*S*H” and has appeared in dozens of other shows and films including “The West Wing,” “30 Rock” and “The Aviator,” for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, said he was diagnosed three and a half years ago after he read an article about how acting out dreams was a sign of the disease.

“I was having a dream that someone was attacking me and I threw a sack of potatoes at them. But what I was really doing was throwing a pillow at my wife,” he said.

Since then, he said he has “had a full life” acting, giving talks, producing his podcast Clear + Vivid, and helping at the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. He said he decided to go public with his diagnosis before it could be revealed “from a sad point of view.”

“I noticed that – I had been on television a lot in the last couple of weeks talking about the new podcast – and I could see my thumb twitch in some shots and I thought, it’s probably only a matter of time before somebody does a story about this from a sad point of view, but that’s not where I am,” Alda said.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease affecting dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, which causes symptoms like tremors, limb rigidity and gait and balance problems. Ten million people worldwide are estimated to have the disease.

Alda said he’s “not going to worry” about his disease’s progression and hopes to encourage others to learn about new research and things they can still do with Parkinson’s.

“In the very beginning, to be immobilized by fear and think the worst thing has happened to you – it hasn’t happened to you. You still have things you can do,” Alda said. “I’m taking boxing lessons three times a week. I do singles tennis a couple of times a week. I march to Sousa music because marching to music is good for Parkinson’s.”

He said he’s “not angry” about his diagnosis because he sees it as a challenge:

You’ve got to cross the street, there are cars coming. How do you get across the street? You don’t just sit on the pavement and say, well, I guess I’ll never cross the street again. You find a way to do it. There are some common symptoms, but mostly everybody’s different and each day is different from the next. One day you wake up, you think, oh, it’s over, it’s gone. Next day it’s back a little worse. You don’t know what it’s going to be, but the main thing is, there’s stuff you can do and I’ve been — you know how I look at it? It’s like a puzzle to be solved. What do I have to adapt to to carry on a normal life? And I enjoy solving puzzles.

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Parkinson's Disease

Finding Camaraderie in My Life With Parkinson's Disease

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” –Helen Keller Today did not start out well. I woke up at 1:30 a.m. with a terrible headache and still had it when I got out of bed at 7:00am. Fatigue was ever-present and I knew I would have to push hard to [...]

Why I Must Remain Vigilant in My Life With Parkinson's Disease

“Be vigilant, for nothing one achieves lasts forever.”  — Tahar Ben Jelloun It is time to take out the party hats again.   I am starting to descend into pity party territory. It has been a tough week with the loss of my 12-year-old beloved pet bunny Snoopy. Once again, I was feeling guilt. Could I [...]
Jean Mellano at Rock Steady boxing.

How Boxing Keeps My Fire Going as I Battle Parkinson's Disease

“She’s living in a world, and it’s on fire Feeling the catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away Oh, she got both feet on the ground And she’s burning it down Oh, she got her head in the clouds And she’s not backing down” — Alicia Keys Recently Michael, one of the volunteers in [...]
Jean getting ready to break wood in Rock Steady boxing class.

Overcoming My Fear of Failure as I Live With Parkinson's Disease

“The greatest obstacle to success is the fear of failure.” ― Debasish Mridha Recently, Sensei Michelle offered Rock Steady Boxing participants the opportunity to “break wood” with our hand.  Stan and Kelly volunteered and both were successful in crushing the wood. I wanted to try, but something was holding me back. I thought long and [...]