Why I Pedal for Parkinson's
Monday 3rd Aug
In 2019, the organizers of (the inaugural) Pedal for Parkinson's (in Prince Edward County) asked me why I joined this event. Here's what I shared with participants (ie volunteers, cyclists, organizers) on July 12:
"When Jim and Krista asked me to speak this morning, I thought, "I'd rather cycle for 320km with 100 of my closest friends I've never met before instead of speak in public!" All to say, I hate public speaking. But what I hate more is that my dad has Parkinson's disease. So, thanks Krista and Jim, for this opportunity to go out of my comfort zone for good reason. I can think of at least 200 reasons to Pedal for Parkinson's. Since I've only had 1 cup of coffee, I'll just give you my top 3 (reasons): 1. I Pedal for Parkinson's for DAD: Dad was diagnosed 17 years ago. Over the years, he's gone from being an active, independent person to a person needing help in almost every aspect of his life. Even before Parkinson's, dad taught me about the power of encouragement and steady determination: thankfully, Parkinson's has not taken away these strong attributes of dad. Watching dad live with Parkinson's with conviction and optimism has taught me to be a better Occupational Therapist. When dad first got diagnosed, my way of coping was to focus on the characteristic signs he exhibited...information I was taught in school. But school never prepared me for watching dad live with the disease. Despite Parkinson's, dad still tells me, "The sky will never fall down", when I'm feeling overwhelmed by life. Despite Parkinson's, dad will out-box me on the Wii from his wheelchair, has a higher cadence pedalling his foot bike than I do on my road bike, wins more UNO games than we can keep track of, and continues to get compliments for his Chinese calligraphy writing (which he's won awards for and) which he practices daily as therapy. Oliver Sacks said that, "In examining disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy, physiology and biology. In examining the person with disease, we gain wisdom about life. Despite Parkinson's, dad is still my dad who covertly slides me a $20 bill for gas, and asks me if I've filed my income taxes when it's (only) January: he's always teaching me something about life and reminding me that I am his daughter...not his therapist.
(2) I Pedal for Parkinson's for my FAMILY: I'm a 2 hour drive away from my family. I parachute home every 2-3 weeks to help and give my family respite. My brother is ready at any time to handle emergencies (like fixing dad's computer glitches). But it's mom and my sister who are the everyday heroes, working with and caring for dad everyday, with steadfastness, humour and creativity whether home or waiting in the ER for hours into the early morning. With dad living with Parkinson's, it has taught our family that there is nothing we would not do for our dad or each other: our family has become closer and experienced some healing. My family has fostered new, rich and meaningful relationships with the personal support workers. Initially, the psw's were strangers but now consider my parents as their own and, help dad and mom in any way they can. But our family and support system is far from perfect: we have our moments. There is a sense of never giving or doing enough, even with the help of others. And when I watch my mom in particular, I see her deeply exhausted.
(3) I Pedal for Parkinson's for ME: When Jim and Krista sent out their July 3rd email about the thousands of homemade cookies and muffins available to eat at Pedal for Parkinson's, I thought, "This is my kind of event!" Joking aside, cycling is one way that I manage my role as caregiver at home and work. Albert Einstein said, "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving". Agreed! My own twist on Einstein's quote is, "To keep moving, I must stay balanced." What I've learned about being a caregiver is that my dad's and family's health and well being is dependent on my health and well being. Regrettably, there have been too many times when I've helped dad or mom in an irritated, frustrated, angry manner...my dad or family took the brunt of that. So, I encourage caregivers to take time for themselves and their own interests, without guilt, if possible...for everyone's benefit. As Buddha said, "You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire Universe, deserve your love and affection."
At the beginning of this talk, I said I could think of 200 reasons to Pedal for Parkinson's. The other 197 reasons are standing right in front of me: Thank you to everyone here: from the cookie bakers I'll never meet to the sponsors, all the riders and especially all the volunteers. Thank you to everyone for contributing to improving the quality of life of people with Parkinson's, their caregivers and loved ones: I will hold each of you, my dad and family in my heart as I Pedal for Parkinson's and leave a trail of cookie crumbs =)
Thank you for reading!