17 Apr 2021

New Zealand film director Toa Fraser reveals early onset Parkinson's

5:10 pm on 17 April 2021

New Zealand film director and playwright Toa Fraser has revealed he has Young Onset Parkinson's Disease.

In a Twitter thread, he said the diagnosis came after years of living with the symptoms and mis-diagnoses of the incurable brain disease.

Since his diagnosis five years ago Fraser said he has had to deal with people asking random questions such as what was wrong with his voice, why he was shaking or why he looked so nervous.

"For the last five years I've kept it quiet. Buried it as much as I could. But now I'm sick of hiding," he said.

Fraser said it had been hard on relationships and his children but those closest to him had been "unfaltering, discrete and kind".

He said Parkinson's Awareness Month was as good a time as any to break his silence and start talking about the disease.

Fraser said nine out of 10 people who live with Parkinson's Disease experience discrimination.

"There is no cure. There is work to be done."

He said he is deeply grateful to all the people he has worked with who have "looked beyond the stern face, the shaking, the dyskinesia and the quiet voice" and who instead chose to see the joy, grit, soul and strength that he brings to his work.

Fraser said the disease makes him a better director allowing him to focus on what is important.

Fraser cited material that he has worked on including The Dead Lands, Daredevil, Penny Dreadful, The Rookie, Titans, The Affair and The Terror.

"All stories about misfits, outcasts, heroes struggling against the odds and striving to thrive and survive," he said.

Fraser said the disease has affected his movement saying "it sucks but it doesn't define me".

"Today I'm stepping out to join the millions of PD warriors with quivering hands who confront this challenge," he said.

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