Love, Other Drugs and Young Onset Parkinson's

Edward Zwick's latest comedy, "Love and Other Drugs", premieres this week amid great fanfare. I have not seen the film as of this writing so I don't know how it treats Parkinson's disease as it is experienced by a young adult. Depending upon the film's accuracy, plausibility, and general approach to the subject of PD, I will be blogging my thoughts in the weeks to come, though.

Having no reference other than a gut feeling, there are a few comments I would like to make about disease films in general and this film in particular.  Films with a disease as a plot premise tend to raise awareness about the experience an individual with the given condition might have.  They can give a disease a human face and background. They may also fall into the trap of perpetuating a stereotype.  The film makers worked with a well-known disease expert and APDA consultant, Dr. Susan Baser of Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital, and one review indicated Anne Hathaway prepared for her role by speaking with individuals living with the disease. Thus, there is a chance YOPD might feel more personal to a wide audience. 

I hope the film is realistic enough for many people to see at least a portion of their own story presented.  The basics of the plot entail a budding romance and the previews seem to indicate that there will be some steamy sexuality portrayed.  No person who receives the diagnosis early in life escapes the fear that PD will make them sexually undesirable or the concern that they could never find a loving partner because they have been diagnosed with a neurological disorder.  Perhaps "Love and Other Drugs" can change this perception and open the possibility that men and women with PD can view themselves as sexual beings with physical and emotional needs that can be fulfilled.  I will be the first to cheer if the film helps change perceptions that the disease makes one unlovable.

The reviews of the film have definitely tagged my pet peeve with how Parkinson's is viewed.  Often, this perception is even held by folks who have PD.  On page after page of Googled articles about "Love and Other Drugs", I hear the Anne Hathaway character referred to as a "Parkinson's patient."  She is not a Parkinson's patient, she is a young woman who has a neurological condition.  The word "patient" implies that her fate is forever linked with the medical system and that she is identifying her primary role in life in terms of that relationship. 

How many of you call yourself or your loved one a Parkinson's patient?

It is fair to call someone a patient when she is sitting in her doctor's office discussing the disease.  I will even tolerate the term when she is taking medication as there is an element of medical treatment involved. Conjecture on my part, but I have read this movie character described as a free spirit, a person with a very interesting life.  The word "patient" is derived from a Latin term that means suffering.  I am not sure that this describes the Hathaway character.  I never think "patient" accurately serves as a catch-all term for a person who has any disease.  Yet we allow "Parkinson's patient" to supplant other roles we have in life: parent, student, gamer, baseball fan, doll collector, volunteer, political party affiliate, curmudgeon, bird lover, artist. When anyone is reduced to one thing, like "Parkinson's patient," that life is diminished as is the life of everyone who interacts with that person.

When you see this film, tell us what it meant to you.  Does it describe your experience with Parkinson's? Is it spot on, schmaltzy, or so off target that you wonder why you wasted the money?

Enjoy the popcorn,

Dr. Paul

NOTE: Dr. Paul Short is neither an agent nor employee of ADPA or any of its affiliate organizations. The views expressed in this blog are the opinions of Dr. Short and do not represent the opinions or endorsement of APDA. The information contained on this site is for your general information only and is not intended as, or a substitution for, medical advice. You should also be aware that the information on this site may not reflect the most current medical developments, nor is it provided in the course of a physician - patient relationship. You should always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider or expert with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a health or medical condition. You should never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on this site.

About the Author

Paul Short, PhD

Dr. Paul Short, The Parkinson's Coach, provides Internet-based coaching to individuals and famlies challenged by Parkinson's disease and helps them develop personalized plans for coping with the disease.