My first exposure to Parkinson’s disease was when my mother informed me that she had Parkinson’s disease. I guess my mother would have been in her mid 60s at the time. She also told me that she had received advice that Parkinson’s disease was not hereditary. Unfortunately, this proved, bless her, not to be the case.
I was born in England in 1942 and came out to Australia in 1970 to take up an IT position with the Australian Government in Canberra and worked in various Government departments until I retired.
From a physical aspect, I kept myself pretty fit. I did a lot of running – competing in several marathons and some ultra-marathons. I competed in many rogaines (24hr cross country navigation events) with some success. I did a large number of bushwalks – many of several days length. I played competitive badminton at A grade.
Up until the age of 60 I basically (I think, perhaps, I was too over the top) thought I was indestructible! That this was not true became very evident later on. Firstly my blood results showed a rather high PSA reading. Biopsies showed that I had prostate cancer. I then had treatment – brachytherapy -, which basically fixed that. Two years later a routine examination revealed a melanoma on my back – this was excised, which basically fixed that.
Subsequently, in 2008 my GP was checking me out – a mole check – and said that he thought that I might have Parkinson’s disease and would give me a referral if I wished. This was a bit of a shock to me as, as far as I was aware, I had no symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Nevertheless, given that my mother had had Parkinson’s disease I took this very seriously. The specialist confirmed that I had Parkinson’s disease. However, given that the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease seems to be dependent upon the specialist’s judgement, I was not fully satisfied. Consequently, I sought other opinions – all of which confirmed that I had Parkinson’s disease. The specialists as far as I can tell were largely making their judgement based on my facial expression and gait.
I then looked more closely at the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It transpires that many of the medical symptoms that I have can be attributed to Parkinson’s disease, although I was not aware of this and had assessed them to be symptoms of old age. I do not have, yet, the classic symptom of Parkinson’s disease, tremor, but no doubt it will come. My mother certainly had it. My wife had observed with some concern that occasionally I thrashed around with my arms in bed at night. This apparently is associated with Parkinson’s disease, but my wife had wondered whether this expressed a latent violence in my nature. My sense of smell is very poor – again a common complaint of Parkinson’s disease sufferers. Apparently I now walk with one shoulder higher than the other – again symptomatic of Parkinson’s disease. At my last appointment with my urologist he pointed out that my symptoms (frequent urination) were associated with Parkinson’s disease. At a recent meeting of Parkinson’s sufferers many suffered from a stiff neck, as I do.
Oddly, I believe, some of these symptoms stem from a long time ago – not 2008. What this means I am not sure.
Some of the sufferers from Parkinson’s disease in Canberra have strong athletic backgrounds. Is this just random or is this significant?
How should one approach the future? My gut feel is that I may have been protected from the worst effects of Parkinson’s disease by exercise. I shall, therefore, endeavour to exercise strongly. As I like exercise this is not a problem for me. My exercise regime has not been strong in recent times due to family issues but now is the time to increase my exercise regime.
I recently (November 2011) walked the Milford Track. This is an exceptional walkthrough very attractive wilderness scenery. The walk is 55k for over 3 days. This indicates to me that Parkinson’s disease does not control me at this time. I hope to do the coast-to-coast walk in the UK in September 2012 – this is a much longer walk. I would also like to walk the Maclehose trail in Hong Kong.
Written by Mike Worsley 27 Dec 2011