By Martin Cowell, a member of the MoveMe group.
I absolutely echo and underline everything that Rhonda says about MoveMe : it is wonderfully led and managed, before during and after, and is a great way to sustain one’s exercise regime whilst mixing with a lovely bunch of people – who all know what life can be like with Parkinson’s.
I was diagnosed in March three years ago, much to my surprise (my GP had twice told me I did not have it, and that my fairly mild tremor was something else) and initial concern – not least because I knew very little about it. I probably saw the same specialist as Rhonda: she was quite matter-of-fact, but her approach was very much that the diagnosis is just the beginning of the rest of your life, and that one should be positive first and positive second. I do remember particularly that she commented – when I was doing the ‘walking in a straight line’ test – that I was not swinging my arms: you can bet that I have made absolutely certain that I have done so every time when I have been seen by a health professional since!
So I set about seeing what I needed to do to try to keep Parkinson’s at bay. I was happy to find that the NHS health professionals (specialist nurse Mabel, physio Jenny) were prepared to come to my home within a week or two, and they were hugely encouraging. I was also fortunate in already knowing a great guy called Billy Taylor (read all about his amazing life at https://monkeyfistadventures.com/2019/07/14/who-is-billy-taylor/): Billy told me of several people who might help – one of whom was Ewen, founder of Parkinsons.me. Before I met Ewen, though, I had coffee with the inspirational and indefatigable Sally Bromley, chair of Parkinsons UK Oxford, who could not have been more encouraging. One of her great contributions has been to devise First Steps https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/professionals/first-steps-people-newly-diagnosed-parkinsons and I was lucky to get a place on that just a few weeks into my Parkinson’s life.
Exercise is the key, I quickly learned. As one who was pretty active but had always steered well clear of gyms and fitness programmes, it took me a while to get into the routine; but I quickly found that it really does help – and it certainly does not do you any harm! I aim to do
at least fifteen minutes of PD Warrior (a marvellous regime invented by Aussies) exercises every day, and supplement that with regular walking and cycling (static and actual) as well as making everyday life as physical as possible. I also attend weekly classes put on by the Bosworth Clinic at Cassington, where I have made new friends.
I was delighted also to be able to be allowed to join MoveMe. Under Jo and Tessa’s guidance we get through an hour of relaxed but testing exercise, in the attractive surroundings of Ardington – by far the hardest element is battling the traffic to get there from my Summertown location! The camaraderie over coffee and cake is a great way to sign off afterwards and all for just £5 per session. Thank you to everybody involved.
All this has enabled me to continue to lead a very full life, so far – fingers crossed – without the need for medication. I cannot speak highly enough of the value of exercise and all its benefits. It has even helped me get through the period of Lockdown rather better than I would ever have imagined I could!