Dean Malenko opens up about his battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Malenko was a recent guest on Talk Is Jericho and talked about his life with Parkinson’s disease, explaining that he was first diagnosed with it around seven years ago.
“I’m 60 years old and they say usually around 60 is the age when you start to get it. I got it around six, seven years ago. And about a year ago, I was at Starrcast in Chicago, and I asked to do a Q&A session with Tony Schiavone. And I got a little nervous and a little scared because I was gonna be up front in front of people and I haven’t really been in front of crowds a lot. Of course at work, which is a different environment, but you get nervous sometimes because you don’t want people to know what you got, you’re like trying to hide it. Parkinson’s is a very difficult thing to cover up. It either looks like you’re freezing cold or you’re drinking or you’re jonesing, whatever, and I don’t want people to think that. That day when I started talking, I realized the microphone was really light and what I mean by that is, things that are very light, like silverware, if there’s no weight to it, I’ll shake more,” Malenko said. “It’s very interesting the way all that works. So I had Tony and the people there actually gave me a stand and when they put the stand up and the microphone, I didn’t have to use my hands. I almost felt like Stevie Wonder leaning in on the piano, which I kinda do in my head. And I just kind of blurted out, damn Parkinson’s and a couple people caught it and it kinda got on social media and ran a little bit but nothing really big. And you know, Parkinson’s is one of those things where it’s a very odd disease. There’s no cure for it. The secret is to try to find things that will slow the progression down of of it so you have a quality of life that you want to spend.”
Malenko says his family has been very supportive about it and they don’t make a big deal about it, but he says the medication he’s on helps him in his daily life.
“So I haven’t really made, first started out with my left hand trembling, went to a couple different doctors because there’s no blood tests, no urine tests, no anything that actually says you have Parkinson’s. There’s so many different diseases that connect with what I’m doing. So it’s like the best three out of five so I had the tremor, one thing that I didn’t notice was, when you’re walking, one arm doesn’t swing, which is usually my left, that’s a big sign of Parkinson’s, and when you’re clicking your middle finger and your thumb together, you’re off timing and it was always on my left hand, never on my right. So when you put all these three things together, it pretty much says you have Parkinson’s. [It] was three different doctors that acknowledged it all at the same time. So it’s been a little bit of a difficult ride,” Malenko said. “and again, the hard part was just trying to live every day and every day’s different. I always compare having Parkinson’s to like having a roommate that never leaves. Because every morning you wake up, you have this other person with you that’s either not gonna let you get out of bed real easy, gonna make you shake and kinda takes over your body. So that can be a little crazy at times but I’m kinda getting used to it. But I’ve tried to just kind of laugh things off, you know, like my 15-year-old, if I’m shaking, she’ll come over and put her hand on me and then she starts shaking. And just have fun with it, there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m not gonna get rid of it, it’s always gonna be there.”
Malenko said he’s hopeful that modern medicine can slow things down and potential improve his quality of life, but one thing he doesn’t want is for people to feel sorry for him or second-guess him.
“Sometimes in the morning it’s hard to get out of bed, but sometimes I don’t know, is that Parkinson’s it is that the business for 30 years? So it’s hard to figure that part out. But my big thing was,” Malenko explained, “I just want people to know that if you see me and I’m shaking, I’m not cold. I didn’t want people second-guessing, I didn’t want people feeling sorry for myself. It’s just one of those things that I have, just another obstacle in my way.”
Malenko was told that anything from pesticides to head trauma, could cause Parkinson’s, and the disease basically depletes the dopamine in your body. He says the medicine helps balance that, but he’s also looking into stem cell replacement as a way to treat it and named Rey Mysterio as someone that’s trying to get him enough information to see if it’s a viable option.
“There’s no set format. It’s not like everybody’s gonna get this and…there’s like five stages of Parkinson’s and I’m probably at stage one still, stage two, and it’s already been six years, so my progression is really slow, which has been great. The other part of it is, they say anybody that has this disease has a 50% chance of getting dementia along with it. I started thinking, that actually might be a good thing because if I did have dementia, I’d also forget that I have Parkinson’s. I try not to let whatever’s going on in my life affect my work, you know and if it does one day, then it does. Then it’s time to take a walk. But I’ll keep trucking along and do what I can. I love the business, I love helping guys, and I always felt, because my dad was in it,” Malenko noted, “that I had an opportunity, and I always felt like I feel responsible to keep this business going as long as I can. I think what’s harder from an athlete’s standpoint is that you’re so used to being in shape and here comes this disease that kinda takes over your body and it can be very taxing on your brain.”
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The full episode is available here: