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Big Yin Billy Connolly begins Parkinson's battle in wake of cancer op

Scottish comic genius and prolific actor Billy Connolly has undergone surgery for prostate cancer and is being treated for the "initial symptoms" of Parkinson's Disease.

The 70-year-old star, who rose to fame on the Scottish folk music scene, will continue to work in TV and on stage.

His representative said: "Billy Connolly recently underwent minor surgery in America after being diagnosed with the very early stages of prostate cancer. The operation was a total success, and Billy is fully recovered.

"In addition, Billy has been assessed as having the initial symptoms of Parkinson's disease, for which he is receiving the appropriate treatment.

"Billy has been assured by experts that the findings will in no way inhibit or affect his ability to work, and he will start filming a TV series in the near future, as well as undertaking an extensive theatrical tour of New Zealand in the new year."

Steve Ford, Chief Executive at Parkinson's UK, said: "Put simply Billy Connolly is a much loved comedy legend and we are sorry to hear that he is being treated for the early symptoms of Parkinson's. One person every hour will be diagnosed with Parkinson's in the UK, despite this it remains a little understood condition and we salute Billy's bravery in speaking out about his condition at this difficult time.

Video: Billy Connolly in full flow - Warning: this video contains strong language

"There are 127,000 people in the UK, like Billy, living with Parkinson's. Parkinson's can be a very difficult condition to diagnose, as no two people with Parkinson's are the same, with symptoms - such a slowness of movement or tremor - changing on a daily, or even hourly basis.

"Many people, with the right medication, continue to live a full and active live with Parkinson's, but for some, it can be life changing and it is vital that Billy gets the support he needs to live with this complex condition.

"We wish Billy and his family all the best as they come to terms with this upsetting diagnosis."

Born and raised in Glasgow, Connolly left school to work in the shipyards becoming a welder and joined the Territorial Army at around the same time. He developed an interest in folk music, eventually becoming an accomplished banjo player and a member of the band Humblebums with Gerry Rafferty.

The Glasgow-born star, affectionately known as the Big Yin, made  a string of appearances on Michael Parkinson's chatshow establishing  him a household name and helping to  launch a career that saw him perform sell-out stand-up shows around the world, present a series of documentaries and become an in-demand character actor.

He is married to New Zealand-born actress and psychologist Pamela Stephenson whose biography of her husband, simply called Billy, was a huge best-seller.

He is one of around 127,000 Britons with the disease, which is caused by a loss of brain cells that produce a chemical messenger called dopamine.

Symptoms differ from case to case but often include a tremor or fine shake while the person is at rest, rigidity of muscles, slowness of movement and unsteady balance.

Other possible symptoms can include memory loss and earlier this year, Connolly admitted he had started to forget his lines during performances.

Speaking about it, he said: "This is f*****g terrifying. I feel like I'm going out of my mind."

There is no cure for Parkinson's and scientists have been unable to work out why people get the condition.

Symptoms can be controlled using a combination of drugs, therapies and occasionally surgery, but often more care and support may be needed as they progress.

Actor Bob Hoskins announced his retirement last year after being diagnosed with the disease.

The disease was identified by - and named after - Dr James Parkinson who wrote An Essay On The Shaking Palsy in 1817 which established it as a recognised medical condition.

Connolly was made a CBE in the 2003 Queen's Birthday Honours and awarded the freedom his home city in 2010.

 

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