Gordon Pinsent says he sometimes has to take time off work because of pain that feels like he’s “being bitten by a tiger,” but the veteran Canadian actor isn’t letting the debilitating condition affect his positive outlook on life.
The 80-year-old Newfoundland native suffers from trigeminal neuralgia, a disorder that causes excruciating stabbing or electric shock-like pains in his eye.
Worried that the pain could strike while on stage, Pinsent says the condition has forced him to take breaks from acting in the theatre.
“I’m getting used to it,” he said in an interview Monday following a speech in Toronto. “Let me tell you, it used to send me to the floor and now it doesn’t.”
Pinsent, who has had trigeminal neuralgia for about 12 years, was upbeat as he opened up about the condition, saying he often has pain-free stretches that last as long as 20 weeks.
The Trigeminal Neuralgia Association of Canada says the disorder is considered one of the most painful conditions a person can experience.
Electronics like earphones and microphones can often aggravate his pain.
The nerve disorder, which is characterized by intense facial pain and mainly affects those over 50, was once known as “Tic Douloureux” or “the suicide disease” before medication to treat the intense pain became widely available.
Often, something as simple brushing teeth or applying makeup can trigger painful episodes.
Pinsent is considering his treatment options, which could include surgery.
The pain doesn’t appear to be getting Pinsent down.
“Sometimes getting older is not a bad thing,” he said in the interview, explaining seniors have the advantage of decades of life experience to make them stronger.”