Richard Voke “The Magnificent Seven”
GDNF Participants’ Unifying Challenge
Julia’s team – The Magnificent Seven
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in November 2005, three days after my 43rd birthday. For the first few years my symptoms were limited and didn’t really stop me doing all the things I did before I was diagnosed. I kept by myself active by playing tennis, swimming, running and cycling.
In 2015 I joined the GDNF clinical trial, and continued to be able to do all the things I wanted to do. Thanks to the GDNF and keeping active, I hardly knew I had Parkinson’s.
I went on some great two-day cycling trips with friends, cycling from Reading to Bristol, Barnstaple to Plymouth, Swansea to Bristol – on separate weekends of course! I also cycled the 150 miles from Bristol to our holiday cottage on the coast in St Brides Bay, Pembrokeshire via the Brecon Beacons. But as time wore on after the trial was halted, my Parkinson’s started to intrude on my life. I bought an electric bike to help me carry on cycling.
I managed a few more cycling outings, including another cycle to Pembrokeshire. Then I developed Camptocormia.
This has been the most debilitating symptom of my Parkinson’s. I have severe forward flexion of the spine, meaning I cannot stand up straight. I walk bent over, with my upper body parallel to the ground. I can’t lift my arms above my shoulders. I can’t walk far and, anyway, I can’t look around as I am looking at the ground all of the time. It is exhausting.
However, I can still cycle! My balance is not too good and I have to be careful slowing down otherwise I fall off. My arms get tired supporting my body so I can’t go far. BUT I am planning to cycle from Bristol to Bath and back with my husband, my son and our four friends whom we cycled with on our previous adventures. The distance is 20 miles which I am hoping I will be able to complete. This is a major challenge for me and, together with the rest of the team’s miles, we will hit 100 miles of the Unifying Challenge.
I firmly believe that GDNF works in slowing down and reversing Parkinson’s and that more research needs to be carried out. That is why we are all doing this Challenge – to raise awareness and to raise money to get GDNF research back on the road.
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