“Plan ahead and take control of your own life and don’t let your Parkinson’s Disease determine who you are as a person”, the advice of Malcolm Irving, a Senior Business Consultant with SAS, the international analytics software and solutions company. Recent interviews conducted by Shake It Up supporter Maree Faulkner with 21 Australians living with Parkinson’s explored the impact of their diagnosis on their career. Our Pause 4 Parkinson’s campaign this year shines a light on this important issue.
Malcolm is a forthright, focused man in his early 60s who lives in northern Sydney. He has had a long and successful career in the technology industry and leads an active and multi-faceted life.
Ten years ago, Malcolm was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). As an apparently healthy man in his early 50s, he was shocked by the diagnosis and that his disease was well-advanced. However, he quickly made the decision that PD was not going to define him.
He decided to develop a ten year plan. This plan involved first learning about PD and, importantly, understanding his own physical, neurological and psychological response to it. PD is different for every person. There is no standard template of its impact or progression. So, as Malcolm found, recognising, monitoring and taking control of your own version of PD is critically important.
Malcolm sought out expert medical advice and also worked on his own health and well-being with exercise, yoga, good nutrition and other natural therapies. Later, he took the difficult decision to have DBS (deep brain stimulation), an emerging treatment for PD which had positive results. Throughout he maintained his focus on his career achievements and personal interests.
Immediately after diagnosis, Malcolm had taken the decision to disclose his condition to his then employer and manager and had received a supportive response. But a key part of Malcolm’s 10 year plan was to seek a new career challenge, so five years later when he was approached by SAS to take on a new and demanding role in SAS’s growing business he responded with enthusiasm. In a move that would surprise many people, particularly in the highly competitive IT industry, Malcolm told the SAS Managing Director about his PD at interview. Not only did the MD respond positively at the time, but he and the local SAS management and HR teams have continued to enable Malcolm to have the flexibility he has needed to succeed in his role, even though Malcolm’s PD symptoms have changed and worsened over the five subsequent years.
Like most people with PD, Malcolm struggles with fatigue and stress, debilitating but often invisible symptoms of PD and ones which require flexibility in working patterns and which limit Malcolm’s ability to travel. Facilitation of workshops produces its own challenges as Malcolm’s speech has been somewhat affected and his micrographia excludes use of the ubiquitous whiteboard!
Malcolm’s SAS colleagues have become a significant community in Malcolm’s working life allowing him to make the adjustments necessary to adapt to these changes by concentrating on the essential, rather than peripheral aspects of the role. These adjustments together, with the supportive and flexible response of Malcolm’s key client, have ensured that both companies , SAS and Red Energy continue to benefit from Malcolm’s expertise. The Managing Director of SAS has recently conducted a video interview with Malcolm which has been disseminated throughout the company, demonstrating and affirming its inclusive culture.
Malcolm Irving’s 10 year plan has become a 20 year plan. He has now worked for longer than he had previously intended and as he progresses toward retirement, his focus is shifting to the life goals he has not yet achieved.
April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month and our annual Pause 4 Parkinson’s campaign.
We are asking you, our Parkinson’s community, to share your own inspirational stories to help others living with this debilitating disease.