Only recently diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s, Andy braved the Larapinta Trail with our Trek for Treatment participants in August. But it was not the physical aspects Andy found challenging – the trip became an emotive experience of reflection and goal setting for the future.
What drives your commitment to find a cure for Parkinson’s?
A little of 12 months ago, at the age of 47 I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease, although I have been affected for probably more than 5 years. At that time (like a lot of people I suspect) I only attributed Parkinson’s Disease (PD) to the elderly and having “the shakes” or tremors but this disease is so much more complex than that. I now know that the neurons in a specific part of my brain are slowly dying and each and everyone of us are affected in numerous ways and it’s the symptoms you don’t see that are the worst. Whilst ideally finding a cure is the ultimate end goal, my drive and determination comes from raising awareness that will lead to people providing the necessary, support and acknowledgement to those with PD. This will hopefully lead to the wider community understanding PD and provide the emotional, social and financial support required for a disease with no cure.
Why Shake It Up Australia?
Shake It Up Australia is a not-for-profit organisation and is the leading the fight in Australia in finding better treatments and ultimately finding a cure for Parkinson’s. Additionally, 100% of all donations raised goes directly into research.
Tell us about the Trek for Treatment to Larapinta?
What an amazing experience and what a great and inspiring group of people to trek with. Choosing to sleep out under the stars in a swag and seeing 6 shooting stars in 5 minutes was one of the highlights. The wonderful, rugged, diverse but beautiful landscape we hiked through was fantastic. Sharing a week in the Australian Outback with other people with PD and with the family/friends of those supporting loved ones with PD, made this trip a very special and unique trip. Whilst PD affects many people in many different ways, this trip highlighted that PD has no rule book and that it is different for every person. I learnt so much and was inspired by some many individuals in so many ways. It also provided me time to reflect on my PD journey so far but also motivate me in continuing to do everything I can to slow this progression on my body and brain.
What was the greatest reward of the trip?
Whilst being physically fit and having undertaken other similar physical challenges in my life, I assumed this Trek would be fairly easy. It was…but it also wasn’t, in so many ways. Having been removed from my usual daily/weekly routine this trip became more difficult, emotionally and physiologically than I ever expected. However, the advice, encouragement and support that was provided by the rest of the group was incredible. It was great to spend time with people that actually understand what I’m going through but also rewarding to hear and share each other’s experiences and learnings. I learnt so much more about myself and PD. The biggest reward for me was too see people that were being challenged overcome these challenges but not only overcome them but support others in overcoming their own.
Best advice for people looking to Shake It Up or participate in a Shake It Up Trek?
Be physically prepared for the Trek but also be prepared to have some fun and meet some amazing people. To be able to mix with quite a diverse group of people with a similar goal in mind and learn from each other’s experiences is something you won’t forget in a hurry.