We are a group of "normal" people who have been affected by some type of Parkinson's at an early age and their families who get together every month to meet and chat over a drink.
Chairman & Treasurer Mark Whitworth
Secretary & Press Relations Niki Oldroyd
I am a family man with three children, I am also a boxing coach for a small club called Norwich Diamonds ABC. I boxed and kick boxed myself, but a shoulder injury stopped me going professional back in 1996.alt Until two years ago I had never done any research into Parkinsons – the only thing I knew was that the great Muhammad Ali had it. I was 38, and very into my sports. I started to feel very tired, and did not feel like going to work, even though I run a small roofing business, and had a family to support.The Doctor told me to slow down on my sports, and not to work so hard, and told me I was stressed, so I tried to slow down a bit. My wife Danielle noticed I was carrying my left hand, just like you would if you were hurt and but we did not think anything of it. This went on for a few weeks until Danielle made me go back to the Doctor. He told me I had Carpel tunnel, so I had an operation on both hands after which I had the next eight weeks off work.I felt good for a while, then the tiredness came back (I know now that was depression, I'd never had depression before so did not recognise the symptoms). Danielle and many of my friends started to notice that I was beginning to drag my left foot and I was still holding my left hand. I had gone from being very strong to very weak. So after being forced back to the Doctor by my wife, I was sent me to the local hospital for a test.After many blood tests and MRI scans, the Doctor hit me with it 'Mark, I think you may have Parkinson's I almost fell over with the blow, tears came to my eye and I didn't know what to do. I tried to stay strong but all I could think of is what to tell my kids, my family, and my friends. The worst thing is I still had to wait 6 weeks to get the results.altThey were a very long six weeks of my life, believe me, I just wanted to know what was going on. All kinds of things were going on in my head, then just weeks before Christmas two years ago, I was told the news 'Mark you have Parkinson's' Boom, my head just exploded with fear, 'God what do I do now?'Danielle is great. Some mornings she gets me dressed, and helps me with the things I struggle with. She will always be there to support me. I think the children understand, but at 15 and twin girls at 11, it must be hard for them to grasp. Many of my friends have been great, but I'm not sure they fully understand what I'm going through; sometimes it is hard to explain.I wanted to find out more about Parkinson's, so I started to look for local support groups, and found one in my city, Norwich. Though they made me welcome, I felt very out of place being the youngest person there. So I decided to start my own group.
I was diagnosed in 1991 at the age of 24 after 4 years of tests for balance issues finally led me to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. Leading up to the appointment I had had numerous brain scans (CT, PET and MRI) and blood tests and I assumed they would find my brain deficient in some kind of chemical that could be replaced by medication.
In front of a large group of students in a lecture theatre one of the senior consultants at the hospital pushed and pulled me one way and another demonstrating my poor balance and altered gait. He then pronounced that I had Parkinson's Disease .
Looking back I was at ar centre of excellence for neurological conditions so probably should have expected bad news but I was totally shocked – all I could think of was shaky old people and that they must have made a mistake. The worst thing was that noone could tell me when or how the disease would progress but they did tell me there was nothing I could to stop it.
There were a lot of tears and - I did the "why me"? thing for quite a whiIe. That was 21 years ago.
I have found it very difficult to come to terms with the fact that I have Parkinson's and think I was in denial for a very long time. At the time of the diagnosis until a year ago I lived in Kent only 20 miles from central London and throughout that time (20 years) not once I was offered any support by any type of organisation. When I moved to Norfolk I did not know what to expect but the difference has been incredible.
There is a team of Physios, Occupational Therapists, Parkinsons Nurses none of whom can take the Parkinson's away but at least they are there. Luckily for me the onset has been very slow and it is only in the last three years that my symptoms have worsened markedly with the onset of freezing and frequent falls. I stumble and fall a lot and still get embarassed when I just stop in the middle of the pavement or cling onto someone to stop me keeling over.
But I'm not alone - it took me four months to pluck up the courage to go to my first Parkinsons Ride meeting
I am very glad I did!