Movie fans around the world were left in a state of shock on August 11th 2014 when news surfaced that actor Robin Williams, who had made many of us laugh, made us cry, and provided the voiceover to our kids' and grandkids' childhoods, had died.
Initially, reports centered around Williams' financial troubles, depression, and longstanding battle against alcohol and drug abuse, but a statement from his widow, Susan Schneider, informed the world that the much-loved comic was, in fact, struggling to come to terms with a recent diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease - a diagnosis that he felt he was 'not yet ready to share publicly'.
While Hollywood has lost one of its all-time greats, it is hoped that Williams' death will help to raise awareness of the disease.
Parkinson's Disease is a medical condition that isn't fully understood, and its primary symptoms tend to mimic those of other diseases, which makes Parkinson's quite difficult to diagnose. Despite this, the NHS reports that there are roughly 127,000 confirmed cases in the UK, with the disease thought to affect an estimated 1 person in every 500.
Parkinson's Disease affects the nerve cells in the body, making it more challenging for the brain and the body to communicate and understand each other. Common symptoms include tremors, muscle weakness and stiffness, and restricted mobility.
As Parkinson's is a progressive disease, sufferers may be able to continue with their everyday routine during the early stages, with those in later stages often making use of mobility aids such as stairlifts and wheelchairs to move about. Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson's, but medications and alternative therapies can help sufferers live independent, fulfilling lives.
If there is one positive aspect to stem from Robin Williams' untimely death it's that the media is now buzzing with information and advice for Parkinson's Disease sufferers who have previously found that there hasn't been enough support available to them.
Robin Williams supported many charities, including charities dedicated to Parkinson's research, and these not-for-profit businesses have reported a huge spike in donations recently made not only to honour the comedian, but also to get this disease into the public eye, providing funding that allows for researchers to better understand the condition, and opening up doors to new treatments and new methods of managing Parkinson's long term.
William's charitable work was acknowledged at Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Grants Banquet on 14th August, and will be continued by his daughter, Zelda.