WTVT-Ch. 13 Anchor Tom Curran Reveals He Has Parkinson's Disease
Months later, WTVT-Ch. 13 morning anchor Tom Curran faced a jarring diagnosis. He had Parkinson’s disease, a progressive nervous disease marked by increased tremors and muscle weakness.
The disorder, which most famously struck actor Michael J. Fox in 1991, would be a challenge for anyone. But Curran, 54, has been a news anchor at Tampa’s Fox affiliate for 14 years; when viewers began writing emails asking about his health, he knew he had to respond, somehow.
“I figured, better to share it with them, than to look like I’m having a nervous breakdown,” said Curran, who discussed his condition earlier this month in two posts on a blog he maintains for WTVT.
“Some (people) were perceptive enough from having seen the symptoms of Parkinson’s to ask directly about it,” the silver-haired anchor said, reached at his Tarpon Springs home. “Parkinson’s has the ability to change you like that — physically change the way you walk, and your face can almost get a mask-like look, showing no emotion. Hopefully, I won’t get like that for a long time.”
Curran’s Jan. 9 blog post began simply: “I feel I need to clear the air...Some of you had already guessed what is going on with my health. For a little over two years I have been dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. Only recently have my symptoms reached a point where they are more pronounced than before...I’m ready for what ever battle P.D. has to throw at me in the coming years. After bringing you the morning news for nearly 15 years, I’m not done yet.”
Indeed, Curran intends to stay in his anchor job at WTVT for as long as possible, despite a work schedule which requires rising at 2 a.m. to begin anchoring the station’s morning news for two hours each weekday at 5 a.m. “One of the things which can exaggerate symptoms is nervousness,” he said. “So letting people know what I have actually helps, because I had been trying so hard to cover it up.”
It has been about 2 1/2 years since that first finger twitch revealed a possible problem. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s — initially, the first doctor he consulted thought it was a milder disease — Curran began telling WTVT management and later, his co-workers. The disease robs the brain of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which helps regulate muscle control. Obvious symptoms include uncontrollable tremors and an affected gait; less obvious effects include cognitive impairment, ranging from mild memory difficulties to dementia.
And every affected person — statistics estimate there are 1-million people with Parkinson’s nationwide — exhibits symptoms differently.
Curran’s blog post drew about 40 responses, including folks who shared inspirational stories of friends and relatives who live with the disease. Curran has also said that WTVT management has been very supportive, though officials declined to comment on the record for this story, citing concerns about obeying laws regarding the release or public discussion of employees’ medical information.
A native of Toronto, Canada who moved here from California in 1994, Curran remains an avid hockey fan and amateur referee, who continues to officiate games. He’s also open to the idea of speaking out about Parkinson’s to raise awareness and money, though as a devout Christian, he remains conflicted about the stem cell research touted as the possible route to a cure.
He also maintains a powerfully positive attitude, cracking an awful joke in response to a tough question: Does he know how long he can live with the disease? “It’s different from one person to the next; it could be a few years, or a couple of decades,” he said. “At least, if I’m not in an accident, I know what’s going to kill me.”
More seriously, Curran remains thankful his wife Christina, 15-year-old stepson Cody and colleagues at WTVT are supportive. So far, he’s taking one day at a time, declining to speculate much on when he might leave the anchor chair or what he might do for a living afterward.
“I had, basically a perfect 52 years of health and...this happens,” he said. “Now, I tell people, every day you have on God’s earth, you’ve got to be happy. Because when you lose your good health, you’re facing a whole new set of rules.”