By Judith van Berkom –
Jim Redmond, Kitchissippi resident, teacher at Nepean High School, and an avid cyclist with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, will be cycling the Lap the Gats 21 km loop in Gatineau this year.
After his initial diagnosis two years ago at the age of 45, Jim describes how he received a video of an “old guy [with Parkinson’s], who could barely walk, but could get on a bike and cycle.” Jim’s always been active, mainly running but has trouble walking now, occasionally stiffening up, or shuffling his steps, but on his bike he says, everything loosens up.
“Rigidity is a big one for me. I spend a half hour exercising, and 45 minutes to an hour stretching [in the morning, in order to be able to function]. I’m committed to taking care of this thing so that my quality of life remains the same,” says Jim. “I can do most of the things I’ve done before – I’m still working but have mornings off. I teach one e-learning course and one face-to-face. I have physiotherapy and that’s made the most difference.”
He’s also tried high-intensity training at the JCC with his wife, boxing for 45 seconds, transitioning for 15, and doing this for an hour. Jim finds it encouraging that people with advanced Parkinson’s go to a boxing class.
Jim works out six, sometimes seven days a week having been told that exercise is one of the best things you can do. “There’s always something you can do,” he adds.
“On my better days, I can think Parkinson’s is fascinating; on bad days I can get sour about things.” Jim noticed three years ago that things started to happen that he couldn’t explain. He had a really bad reaction to light and was dizzy all the time. He went through many different running shoes because his knees were hurting and his shoulders were sore. When he got up at night it took him 10 to 20 steps to straighten and loosen up.
There is no test for Parkinson’s; diagnosis is based on a body of evidence over time and symptoms differ for everyone.
Jim’s wife reminds him that it’s all about choice; a positive attitude helps and most of the time he’s able to be positive. “My wife has been a huge influence – she’s a problem solver – without her I’d be a total mess.”
Support groups have been important to Jim in his journey toward optimum health. There are support groups every day of the week here in Ottawa. He also does yoga several times a week combining that with stretching.
Parkinson’s affects 100,000 people in Canada with 25 Canadians diagnosed every day. Soon, with our aging population, Parkinson’s will surpass Alzheimer’s as the number one neurological condition. A long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, affecting mainly the motor system, symptoms develop slowly over time. The most obvious early on symptoms include shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty walking. Diagnosis is based on symptoms and so far there is no cure. Drug treatment masks the symptoms and comes with side effects that are not always easily tolerated.
The fifth annual Lap the Gats for Parkinson’s research takes place this year on June 24, covering a 21 km loop consisting of hilly ascents and descents in the Gatineau Hills. Proceeds go directly to The Ottawa Hospital Parkinson’s Research Consortium. For more information or to register, go to lapthegats.org.
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This feature is brought to you in part by Catherine McKenna, MP Ottawa Centre.