Posted by Nancy Mazonson
I can't tell you how many people told me I HAD to see the new movie with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal, Love and Other Drugs, because Anne Hathaway's character has Parkinson's disease. Until now, most of the mainstream media mention of Parkinson's has focused on either Michael J. Fox or Mohammed Ali, so even though this is not a movie I would ordinarily rush out to see, I was curious to see what Hollywood would do with a romantic comedy about Parkinson's disease.
While rather inauthentic in its physical depiction of Parkinson's, the movie does attempt to touch on the emotional challenges of facing life with an unpredictable chronic disease. When the characters played by Hathaway and Gyllenhaal are not engaging in rather athletic sex, they grapple with the disease's impact on their relationship. In the most authentic scene of the movie, Anne Hathaway's character attends a Parkinson's support group meeting at which folks with Parkinson's perform stand up comedy in which the disease becomes the butt of some rather funny jokes. In one way after another, the disease is described as an alien invader, which has attacked their bodies, or a nightmarish roommate who won't move out.
I have heard similar analogies from participants in the JF&CS Parkinson's Family Support Program. Week in and week out in our Parkinson's Dance program or our Tremble Clefs Chorus, or monthly in our Education, Networking, and Support group, I see individuals and caregivers who find that sharing with and learning from other families living with Parkinson's can be both healing and empowering. I feel proud and honored to witness their steadfast determination to be themselves – who they are, not the disease – and to help provide the opportunity and some tools for them to strengthen their resolve.
Programs are ongoing. Please visit www.jfcsboston.org/events to learn more.
Nancy Mazonson has coordinated the Parkinson's Family Support Program of JF&CS since its inception in September 2006. The program is a leading resource in the Boston area with its unique programs, including Parkinson's Dance, Adult Child and Care Partner support groups, and Tremble Clefs choral singing group. Prior to her work at JF&CS, Nancy worked extensively in inpatient and community-based rehabilitation settings, specializing in helping people with degenerative neurological conditions.