My story: How Parkinson's made me Fighting Fit.
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
It was 14th April 2014. Sitting in a neurologist’s waiting room. My GP had made a mistake, hadn’t he....surely?
It was just a precaution.....wasn’t it? Sending me to see a neurologist about a stiff leg, painful forearm and the occasional stress induced tremor. To my disbelief his referral letter had mentioned something about “...Parkinson's disease....”, but that only affects old people....doesn't it?? What did he know, eh.....?
Turned out my eagle eyed GP knew everything. The neurologist, pinned stripe suit, cufflinks glinting, sat behind his enormous desk like a bank manager delivering bad news. I did indeed, to the best of his knowledge, have Parkinson's. I don't remember much of what he said after that...
I was 45 at the time. Relatively fit and healthy. Two young kids. Amazing wife. Busy career. Mortgage to pay. But now with early onset of Parkinson's.....
One thing the bank managing neurologist did mention, apart from suggesting I start taking some pills, was that I should exercise, meaning cardio exercise....at least 2.5 hours a week. Could help alleviate the symptoms, he said.
And that's what I started doing, and still do, pretty much without fail every week. Exercise, exercise, exercise!
Before my diagnosis, getting fit wasn't sufficient reason alone to exercise regularly. But Parkinson's has compelled me to get fit, no complaints, no excuses. I owed it to my family, to myself.
Exercise was my only medication for the first 3 years. After 5 years I'm still on a relatively low dose of medication. There are many people at work who don't know I have Parkinson's (it's a big place!) and who would never know despite spending time with me. And I put much of that down to exercise. Not only does it help with the physical symptoms of stiffness, pain, mobility and balance issues, slowness, poor strength, etc, I genuinely believe regular exercise can prevent or relieve the many hidden challenges we face such as apathy, depression, anxiety and stress.
Don’t get my wrong, it’s a battle at times, a deeply personal battle. Me v. Parkinson’s. Fighting for dominance of my body, sometimes I’m winning, sometimes it’s winning. But it’s a battle that I’m not prepared to lose.
I’ve discovered deep wells of determination within me that I never knew existed. And exercise keeps driving me on, reinforcing the belief and determination to succeed. I'm hard on myself, always pushing for faster times, demanding more steps, more kilometres, more burn than before. If time permitted I would do more exercise, whatever it takes, cycling, tennis, pilates, football.
Which brings me onto Fighting Fit Football, an idea that's been rattling around the corridors of my dopamine deficient brain for a while now. Inspired by the Ray Kennedy Cup, and more recently the formation of the UKYOPD team, it transpires there are lots of other people with early onset of Parkinson's who aren't ready to hang up their football boots just yet, some are even keen to start their football career for the very first time!
Which is where Fighting Fit Football comes in, a community team in St Albans, Hertfordshire, encouraging people with Parkinson's to play football in a supportive and fun environment. Football for all ages, genders and abilities, with small adjustments that can make huge differences. Raising awareness, changing perceptions.
I'm now 50. Fighting fit and still healthy. Two older, beautiful kids. Amazing supportive wife. Still busy career, mortgage still to pay. Football player. Just with Parkinson's. No excuses.
I look forward to seeing you at our next training session hosted at Watford FC's very own Premier League indoor training pitches!
Together we can give Parkinson’s the boot!