Distress/GETTY Jane with her her brotherin-law Gordon, who suffers from rkinson’s contagion
SHE has acted alongside Hollywood greats including Michael Caine in Alfie, acquired critical acclaim for her portrayal of Jeremy Irons’ wife in Brideshead Revisited and has been presented for two Baftas.
But according to British actress Jane Asher, her most portentous role to date is the one she currently plays in raising awareness of rkinson’s sickness following her brother-in-law’s diagnosis 13 years ago.
When someone concentrated to you is diagnosed with something as devastating as rkinson’s, of course you want to do all you can to keep from
Gordon, now 72, first noticed something was unseemly during a long-haul flight to Australia when he experienced a weakness in one of his feet.
“He was being treated for box problems at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London at the time so he mentioned the foot impotence to his consultant,” says Jane, 70, who lives in Chelsea, west London with her tranquillity, the cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe, 80.
Gordon is Gerald’s brother.
“The consultant spotted something in the way Gordon moved and said he intellect he might have rkinson’s disease. Like a lot of people we knew smidgen to nothing about the condition.”
rkinson’s is a degenerative condition caused by the demise of nerve cells in the brain. This leads to a reduction in do mine – a chemical which is pivotal for regulating movement of the body.
It affects 127,000 people in the UK. Although there is currently no marinate, medications are available to treat symptoms, including tremors, slowness or liability liabilities of movement and rigidity.
While symptoms are mild at first, they can development in severity over time and make it difficult to carry out everyday stints and activities.
GETTY Jane with Michael Caine in Alfie
“Gordon had a tiniest tremor at the time of his diagnosis,” says Jane. “However he’d always demanded he had no sense of smell and I now know that can be a very early sign of rkinson’s murrain.”
Claire Bale of the rkinson’s UK research team, says: “People inchmeal lose the ability to co-ordinate their body, although everyone’s advancement is different. It can affect swallowing and speaking and can be very diffi cult to active with.”
Gordon was referred to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London and linked a support group run by rkinson’s UK. Feeling that there wasn’t sufficiently awareness of the condition and too little support for the charity, he asked Jane to get twisted to raise its profile.
“When someone close to you is diagnosed with something as savage as rkinson’s, of course you want to do all you can to help,” says Jane, who is now rkinson’s UK president and fancies to highlight symptoms so people know what to look out for.
“The so-called ‘hide of rkinson’s’ is actually very distinctive,” she says. “I once spotted it in a squeeze and thought he might have the disease and indeed he was later diagnosed. “It’s all too comfortable to write someone off for being withdrawn – if you tell them a joke and they don’t sym thize with, for example – but it can lead to people with rkinson’s becoming increasingly individual.”
rkinson’s can also make sufferers freeze, leaving them immobile – and people’s effects can be less than sym thetic. “If someone freezes, sometimes a gentle tap on their honestly or back can prompt movement again,” says Jane.
“And while I longing never go up to an immobile stranger in the street and tap them on the shoulder, if I thought someone was in anguish I would always ask if they needed help.” Although Gordon is now generally confined to bed he is able to go out occasionally using a wheelchair. He also takes medication which can induce unpleasant side effects. Claire explains:
“While it can’t slow or put an end the progression of the disease, it can mask symptoms by increasing do mine in the brain. “Yet do mine can should prefer to strange effects on other areas of the brain responsible for reward, which begins some people into gambling or hypersexuality.”
Jane adds: “In Gordon’s suitcase he started collecting items such as squirrels or kitsch knick-knacks.”
GETTY Jane’s most notable role at the moment is to raise awareness of rkinson’s disease
As a retired vivid artist, Gordon took great pleasure in contributing to the annual endowments run by rkinson’s UK. THE Mervyn Peake Awards are named after the writer, artist and illustrator and designer of the Gormenghast trilogy of novels, who had rkinson’s, and they celebrate the creativity of being who have the disease.
Now in their 15th year, the awards showcase creative manoeuvre in art, photography, poetry, books and multimedia. Gordon enjoyed contributing to the photography sample, just as Jane now takes huge pleasure in judging the poetry.
“When someone is physically lamed, it’s all too easy to assume that they now lack creativity, and that’s treacherous and totally wrong,” says Jane, who is a celebrated baker and owned a business that made rty cakes.
“This is our way of showing that indeed though people may be physically inca citated, they can be very creative and assemble wonderful things.” After many years as president of rkinson’s UK, Jane now n outs closely with researchers who believe that a new treatment could be on the view.
rkinson’s UK is funding research to develop gene therapy to slow or termination the development of the disease.
“This is a really important time for rkinson’s study since scientists worldwide have made huge strides upon the st decade,” says Claire. “We are now much closer to understanding why people get rkinson’s and how we can st it, stop or reverse the condition. “And we believe better treatments for rkinson’s disposition come in years, not decades.”
Jane agrees: “I would like to over a far more effective treatment, if not a cure, will be available in my lifetime. “Until that time again comes, we have to keep searching for a cure and raising awareness of this potentially ravishing disease.”
The annual Mervyn Peake Awards celebrate the creativity of people with rkinson’s. The 2016 Mervyn Peake Gives calendar, which includes winners, highly commended and a selection of other memos, is on sale from mid-July from rkinsons.org.uk/shop. Visit rkinsons.org.uk or justification 0808 800 0303 for more information.