April 1, 2014 -- Jane Fonda's boyfriend, music producer Richard Perry, told her that he had Parkinson's Disease more than four years ago.
Now, she's making his battle public.
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"We decided I should do it because his symptoms are increasing and I felt it was better that people know why he sometimes sways or staggers or stutters rather than them thinking he was drunk (which has happened) or just out of it," she explained on her blog. "That's another common symptom of this disease–loss of affect. The brain chemical transmitter dopamine is reduced in Parkinson's patients... [and] when dopamine levels are reduced, muscle slackness can cause a person to look blank, uninterested, when, in fact, that isn't the case."
Fonda, 76, wrote that Perry first told her about the disease on their first date -- though she didn't think too much about it at the time. However, after their relationship grew more serious, so did she about his health.
"I said, 'Richard, if you don't take your disease seriously and become an expert in it so you know exactly what your options are, I'm not hanging around,'" she wrote. "And he did–become an expert. He has a top notch motor-disorder neurologist, he works out every day, does yoga, he takes his meds (well, I do have to remind him sometimes because, when his symptoms were getting worse, I went with him to see the doctor and learned that the timing of the meds is critical). Who knew."
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"Seems I have to become an expert as well," she continued. "After all, the disease has a long arc–20 or more years, and it's not directly life threatening–so they refer to 'living with Parkinson's.'"
Since becoming a couple, Fonda added that the two have taken care of each other frequently, as she has had "numerous surgeries" for various ailments. She also said that caring for Perry, whom she said has begun stuttering and swaying as a result of the disease, has taught her quite a bit about empathy and kindness.
"Richard and I are both grateful that more and more people are talking about their Parkinson's Disease, most especially and importantly, Michael J. Fox," she wrote. "So, with this blog, we're publicly joining the discourse."