Linda Ronstadt: ‘Everything becomes a challenge’ Rockstar recalls career-ending disease

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Ronstadt, 76, started her professional career in the 60s as California’s folk scene grew – touring with the likes of Neil Young and Jackson Browne. But her rise to international stardom came after the release of mega albums including Heart Like a Wheel. The nickname The First Lady of Rock soon stuck with the star. Ronstadt’s career sadly ended after the diagnosis of a rare disease that destroyed her singing voice. In recent years, the star spoke publicly about the health ordeal.

Ronstadt’s career started to run into severe issues back in the year 2000 when the first symptoms of her illness began.

“My throat would clutch up. It would just be like I had a cramp or something,” she told CNN in August 2020.

She continued to perform for another nine years – although the frequency of her performances declined significantly.

During her final performance in Mexico, she was forced to rely on mariachi singers to support her – singing many of the songs.

Her ailments, which she thought would just be a minor pinched nerve, turned out to be the symptoms of a condition called progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).

PSP is similar to Parkinson’s disease. Its main symptoms include mobility problems, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, and muscle stiffness, according to the NHS.

It is caused when parts of the brain are damaged by the build-up of tau – a protein used to help structure the brain that usually breaks down.

“I was expecting [the doctor] was going to say I had a pinched nerve and they could fix it,” Ronstadt said.

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“And he said, ‘Well, I think you might have Parkinson’s disease,’ and I was totally shocked.

“It took him about a year after that to come to the diagnosis and then took a little bit longer to come to supranuclear palsy.”

Today, early retired Ronstadt is faced with everyday challenges because of the condition.

“Everything becomes a challenge. Brushing your teeth, taking a shower,” she added.

Moreover, the star struggled with basic things like eating and says she has had to redevelop her ability to eat.

PSP is not a curable disease, however, it can be treated with Parkinson’s disease medication.

These medications, such as levodopa, can increase the amount of dopamine in the brain – which helps with movement.

Other treatments for PSP, which also focus on relieving symptoms include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and botox.

Each of these is available via the NHS pathway.

Specialists may also provide feeding tubes to help manage swallowing problems to avoid malnutrition.

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