Lifting lid on Parkinson’s mystery

MEMBERS of the Mildura Parkinson’s Support Group spent a large portion of Thursday educating passers-by about the complex, misunderstood and sometimes misdiagnosed disease.

Affecting more than 200,000 Australians, Parkinson’s disease has more than 50 symptoms, and each experience of the neurological condition is unique.

Cheryl Barnes was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s at the age of 56, after visiting the doctor for two years.

“Every time I visited the doctor it was a different symptom,” Ms Barnes recalled.

“My left arm wouldn’t swing and my husband said ‘for goodness sake swing your arm when you’re walking’.

“I’d make excuses and say it’s all right, but it wasn’t all right.”

Mary Lang noticed that her thumb would quiver when using a computer mouse.

“I tended to be a bit stiff,” Ms Lang said.

“I’ve had it for coming up to eight years — I got it at the age of 65, which apparently is the average age.”

Geoffrey Windmill, who had been an electrician all his life, noticed a decline in his motor function where he’d constantly drop tools like screwdrivers, hammers and pliers.

“My brain is saying keep hanging on to it but because the message to my brain doesn’t get to the nerve ends your nerve ends just do what they want to do,” Mr Windmill said.

“I have a lot of trouble turning over in bed.

“I can’t bend over.

“It was numerous things.

“I was only diagnosed last year.

“I probably had it for, I’d say, five or six years before that.”

The trio said they were unaware their symptoms could be Parkinson’s and didn’t want others to have the same delayed diagnosis experience.

The Mildura’s Parkinson’s Support Group meets once a month, providing peer support to people living with Parkinson’s, including family members, partners and carers.

“I think it’s just nice to talk to someone else who’s going through what you’re going through, because I think they understand more,” Mr Lang said.

Mr Barnes said it was a good way to compare notes and experiences.

“We get by, and we feel that we are not alone suffering with it, which is a good thing,” Ms Barnes said.

“You’ve got to think positively — that’s what it’s all about.

“Each day is a challenge but we try to be positive.”

As part of World Parkinson’s Awareness Month, a Slow Walk for Parkinson’s from Henderson Park to Jaycee Park will take place on Saturday April 21.

For more information about the Mildura’s Parkinson’s Support Group, or the Slow Walk, contact Cheryl Barnes on 5021 2925 or 0428 935 735.

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