Dean Malenko has opened up about his struggles with Parkinson’s disease, saying it’s difficult sometimes when people think you’ve been drinking.
Speaking on Talk Is Jericho, Malenko would disclose his nerves at even doing a simple Q&A session.
“What happened was I’m 60 years old, so they say that around 60 is the age that you start to get it [Parkinson’s]. I got it about six or seven years ago. About a year ago, I was at Starrcast in Chicago, and I was asked to do a Q&A session with Tony Schiavone. I got a little nervous and a little scared because I was going to be out in front of people. I haven’t really been in front of crowds a lot, of course at work but that’s a different environment. But you get nervous sometimes, because you don’t want people to know what you got, you’re trying to hide it.”
The Man of 1,000 Holds would speak of the difficulty of “covering up” the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, saying he actually wanted to appear on Talk is Jericho to dismiss some of the stigma around the condition.
“Parkinson’s is a very difficult thing to cover up. It looks like you’re freezing cold, or you’re drinking, and I don’t want people to think that. That’s one of the reasons why I asked you to do this [appear on Talk is Jericho]. That day when I started talking, I realised the microphone was really light. What I mean by that is things that are very light, like silverware, if there’s no weight to it, I will shake more. It’s very interesting the way that works. So I had the people there to get me a stand, so I didn’t have to use my hands.”
Malenko – who won championship gold in WWE, WCW and ECW across his wrestling career – would discuss the support he’s received, despite getting frustrated with himself due to the disease.
“I almost felt like Stevie Wonder leaning in on the piano. I just blurted out ‘Damn Parkinson’s.’ And a couple of people heard it. It got onto social media and ran a bit, but nothing really big. Parkinson’s is one of those things where it’s a very odd disease, there’s no cure for it and the secret is to try and find things to slow the progression for it so you have a quality of life. My family knows about it, they have been extremely supportive. My kids don’t make a big deal about it, we have fun with it. My wife will never let me feel sorry for myself, which is really easy to do.”
The former WWF Light Heavyweight Champion would document the specific hurdles he’s faced, but gave a positive update in that medication has helped him of late. However, as Malenko noted, getting to that stage is difficult due to the near impossibility of diagnosing such a condition.
“You go through a gamut of emotions when you have it. You’re p*ssed off at the world, it’s the why me? Then you get upset when you try to button your shirt and you can’t do that. But I’m on pills and medication that have been really helping as of late. It started out with my left hand trembling, and I went to a couple of different doctors. There is no blood test, no urine test, nothing that actually says you have Parkinson’s.”
Dean Malenko went on to reveal the almost puzzle-like process of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and heartbreakingly revealed it’s difficult just to live every day.
“One thing I noticed was, when you’re walking, one arm doesn’t swing, which is usually my left. That’s a big sign of Parkinson’s. When you are clicking your middle finger and thumb together, you are off timing, it was always my left hand, never my right. When you put all these things together, it’s pretty much, yeah, you have Parkinson’s. I was at three different doctors that acknowledged it at the same time. So it’s been a little bit of a difficult ride, the hard part is just trying to live every day.”
One comparison drawn by the former WCW star was that it’s like having a “roommate that never leaves” and that it’s a constant process to live with it.
“I compare having Parkinson’s to having a roommate that never leaves. Because every morning you wake up, you have this other person with you. They’re not going to let you get out of bed easy, they’re going to make you shake, it takes over your body. It can be crazy at times but I am getting used to it. I try to just laugh things off. If I’m shaking, my 15-year-old will put her hand on me and she will start shaking, just have fun with it. There’s nothing you can do about it. I’m not going to get rid of it, it’s always going to be there.”
Malenko was hopeful for the future, though, saying he hopes modern medicine might slow the process down – but acknowledged that sometimes he finds it difficult to pinpoint how much of his struggles are related to Parkinson’s, and how much are down to a lengthy wrestling career.
“Hopefully with modern medicine going forward, they can slow this down at one point. If not, I will deal with it whenever. When you write, you start to write smaller than you used to, because of the disease affecting your motor skills. Sometimes it is hard to get out of bed in the morning, but I don’t know if that’s Parkinson’s or the business. It’s hard to figure that part out. My big thing is that if you see me and I’m shaking, I’m not cold unless it’s cold outside. I don’t want people second guessing, I don’t want people feeling sorry for myself, it’s just one of those things that I have and it’s just another obstacle in my way.”
To hear the full interview, check out Dean Malenko’s candid chat with Chris Jericho on Talk Is Jericho.
For more information on Parkinson’s Disease, click here.
If you use any quotes from this article, please h/t Inside The Ropes and link back to this article.