Our hero this week is Jess who ran the Melbourne Marathon on the weekend to honour her Dad. As a health professional, Jess is eager to help find a cure for others with Parkinson’s.
What drives your commitment to find a cure for Parkinson’s?
My dad died with Parkinson’s. I was at university when he got diagnosed and remember the phone call from my parents and the feeling of fear that followed it. I know my parents were in some way relieved to have an answer. My dad was incredibly stoic; He accepted and moved on with a positive attitude and the help of some amazing professionals including his specialist consultant, Parkinson’s nurse, private physio and a local Parkinson’s support group in the UK which he took an active role in.
We were amazingly lucky that dad had lots of really good years with medication gradually increasing to combat symptoms. Also in part I’m sure due to the fact that he was very fit and healthy and had lots of social interests.
When he deteriorated it was gradual at first and then accelerated rapidly. My brother looked after him at home for a while after my mum died with carers visiting home, but in the end we made the difficult decision as a family to move dad to a residential care home. I think my siblings and I all experienced extreme feelings of guilt about this. Dad was such a lovely person, very generous and genuine and care workers loved looking after him. There were some real gems amongst them too, but it was incredibly hard seeing him become isolated and suffering.
Certain things stand out in my memory. When dad had to give up playing the cello. When his handwriting became too spidery and illegible and he couldn’t smile his lovely smile anymore. He died when I was 34 and I feel like emotionally I aged in an instant. Hardly any of my friends had experienced loss. I think when a parent dies, regardless of how old you are you feel lost for a while and childlike. However my family also try to see the lighter side of things. After all my dad was great at laughing at himself.
Over the years my family have fundraised for Parkinson’s charities. Of my siblings 4 of us are health professionals and we understand how vital research is to enable best practice to evolve. As well as this, having been on the patient side of the journey we are acutely aware of the impact Parkinson’s disease has on all aspects of health and well being, and how personal each experience is. Anything that can improve the outcome for people living with the disease is of paramount importance.
Why Shake it Up Australia?
I started following Shake it Up while living in Australia because of personal interest in the latest research. As I’ve found out more about the charity and it’s founder I have become more invested. I wanted a fitness goal to push myself and it became just as much about the fund raising.
Proving to myself that I could train and run a half marathon to the best of my ability after having my second baby. I was committed to my goal and knowing that the funds raised through sponsorship would go directly into Parkinson’s research fuelled my ambition. I ran my heart out and loved it.
Best advice for people looking to Shake it Up?
Don’t hesitate, just go for it. People are incredibly generous. Keep sharing your story and updates.
Feel proud because you are making a difference.