Terry Jones

Profiles of Aphasia: Terry Jones

Terry Jones is funny. As a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus troupe, he entertained audiences by writing, directing, and acting in comedy sketches and full-length movies such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This talented writer and actor was also diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in 2015. Primary progressive aphasia is a subtype of FTD.

We’ve been profiling well-known people with aphasia, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gabby Giffords. Aphasia can affect anyone; even poetic writers and deep thinkers.

First Symptoms

Friends and colleagues first noticed his speech difficulties in 2014. He was working on Monty Python and couldn’t remember his lines.

Michael Palin, another Monty Python member, explains, “Terry was always very good at remembering lines. But this time he had real problems, and in the end he had to use a teleprompter. That was a first for him. I realized then that something more serious than memory lapses was affecting him.”

It took another year after he lost more and more words and conversation dwindled to be diagnosed with PPA. As his daughter points out, “For someone who lived by words and discussions this was tragic.”

Speaking Out

Jones is using his platform to raise awareness for this communication disorder. The Guardian reported last year that,

Jones was not expected to talk to the press again – until last week, when his family requested an interview to help promote public awareness of FTD, a condition that affects tens of thousands of people in the UK but which remains a relatively little-known medical problem. Their hope was that information about Jones’s responses to his condition might help others cope with it.

Palin discussed in the same article how Jones’s personality helps to spread awareness. He admits that Jones started telling people about PPA quickly after diagnosis. He’d say, “‘I’ve got dementia, you know. My frontal brain lobe has absconded.’ He knew exactly what was affecting him and he wanted to share that knowledge – because that is the way that Terry is. FTD may cause loss of inhibition, but Terry was never very inhibited in the first place.”

That lack of inhibition is helping many others understand PPA or come to terms with their own diagnosis.

By Eduardo Unda-Sanzana – Flickr, CC BY 2.0

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