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CR Reaction: Robin Williams Had Parkinson's

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - In a statement released Thursday, Robin Williams' widow, Susan Schneider, told the world the actor and comedian was struggling with the early stages of Parkinson's disease and was sober when he died. A personal assistant found the 62-year-old dead Monday morning at his Marin County, California home. Authorities said Williams died of asphyxia due to hanging. A final toxicology report is expected to be completed in a few weeks.

Right now, more than 1.5 million people in the US are living with Parkinson's disease just like Williams was. A local man became one of them nine years ago.

John Krumbholz and his wife, Sam, call Parkinson's a family disease. They said they've learned to deal with it together. Part of how John's done that is by reaching out to others. He's the Chair of the Cedar Rapids Parkinson's Foundation and the President of the Iowa State Chapter of the American Parkinson's Disease Association.

"The disease is an ongoing degenerative progression, that you don't know exists until it's 80 percent gone and there is not way that you will ever regain any of that," Krumbholz explained.

He went on to describe the disease as one no one should endure alone. While Schneider said Williams was not ready to go public with his disease, John wished he could have shared his concerns with someone who may have been able to help.

"I wish I would have talked to him first because he's a very brilliant man. The world's gonna miss him," Krumbholz said.

He speaks to people with Parkinson's regularly at support groups throughout Iowa. He said he is thankful that a disease that often makes speech difficult, hasn't taken his voice. Instead, it has given him a platform to help others.

"I  am going to keep talking until it does that and telling them about Parkinson's, and challenging them to do the best they can," Krumbholz said of taking park in the support groups.

Being a part of the groups became his new calling when the fatigue that comes with Parkinson's lead him to leave his job as a middle school principal in Mount Vernon. He also experiences shaking in his right arm and hand, has lost his sense of smell, suffers from constipation and struggles with his peripheral vision. The disease can't be cured, but its progression can be slowed. It manifests itself differently in each person. Krumbholz has early onset Parkinson's that is slow progressing.

"As John would say, it's a disease that seldom takes your life, but it forever alters the way you live your life," Sam said.

Despite the challenge, Krumbholz plans to continue fighting, he said he will not let Parkinson's win.

Robins Williams wife, Susan Schneider, sited multiple stressors in his life prior to his apparent suicide, Parkinson's was just one of them. She also noted his struggles with depression and anxiety.


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