Listen: Phoebes Garland chats to Katrina Roe about fighting Parkinson’s Disease.
It was while relaxing in front of the television one night, when Phoebes Garland discovered her husband had Parkinson’s Disease.
He was fidgeting, and she asked him to stop because it was annoying her. He confessed he couldn’t stop; it was a tremor he had been trying to hide for four months. Soon Phoebes and her hubby were sitting in a doctor’s surgery taking in the news: he had Parkinson’s.
Phoebes describes that moment, and the three years that have followed, as an “emotional rollercoaster”.
“They pretty much diagnosed it on the spot,” Phoebes recalled in an interview with Hope 103.2’s Katrina Roe. “They make them do a series of exercises where they walk up and down, and one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s is the inability to swing one arm. I was devastated.”
Parkinson’s Disease is Not a Death Sentence
Above: Exercise is a key factor in fighting Parkinson’s Disease.
Not one to fall in a heap, though, Phoebes immediately began learning as much as she could about the disease, and became an ambassador for the Shake It Up Foundation – a charity funding research into treating and curing Parkinson’s.
Meanwhile her hubby, who has a background in personal training, got busy fighting the disease with exercise and other strategies. It’s helped him stay active.
“A lot of people think that it’s a death sentence, and it’s actually not.” ~ Phoebes Garland
“He has a competitive nature, he’s an ex-personal trainer,” Phoebes said. “He just keeps going. I admire him for that. He does 45 (minutes of exercise) every day, and goes to PD Warrior exercises classes, which fights some of the symptoms with brain training. I’ve seen a big improvement in his cognitive thinking and responses.
“A lot of people think that it’s a death sentence, and it’s actually not. It affects different people in different ways. It’s very much a disease you have to fight. Exercise is a huge component. The doctors claim exercise is equivalent to a medication at keeping some of the symptoms at bay.
“Early diagnosis is key; they’ve come up with a blood test. I believe they’ll definitely find a cure, it’s a question of when.”
Removing the Stigma of Parkinson’s
Watch: Bev Parks has Parkinsons Disease. She describes her experience.
In Phoebes’ experience, one of the worst things about Parkinsons’ Disease – besides the disability and the cloud it casts over the future – is the way it steals peoples’ confidence.
“My husband has become a lot more self-conscious because of this tremor,” she said. “I find that heartbreaking.”
She wants to use her role with the Shake It Up Foundation to try and remove the stigma of the disease that sufferers experience, and help boost their confidence.
“People are trying to keep it secret, they’re so ashamed,” she said. “They’re so ashamed. Michael J Fox hid it for years while he was acting. One woman said if there was a cure for Parkinson’s she’d go for a promotion, and start dating again. It’s so sad that it robs people of their confidence and makes them feel ashamed. There really is nothing to be ashamed about. It’s an illness like anything else. There’s no shame.”
Not Just a Disease of the Elderly
The actor Michael J Fox, who has Parkinson’s Disease, has helped the world become more aware that it’s not just an ‘old peoples’ disease’; many young people are diagnosed too. In fact the youngest sufferer diagnosed was a four-year-old who had been displaying symptoms from the age of two.
Sadly, long-term users of the drug ice are also more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
Making a Difference
The Shake it Up Foundation, established by businessman and entrepreneur Clyde Campbell after he was diagnosed at age 44, puts all the funds it raises into research for Parkinson’s treatments.
Shake it Up has partnered with the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in the hope of finding a cure.
It’s a cause that affects many; 32 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease every day. But Australia has some of the world’s top specialists working on the case.
Phoebes firmly believes there a cure will be found one day, and celebrates every small win along the way: “Even if it’s a medication that means people can live with it for longer with less ailments that would be a blessing,” she said.
To support the cause, head to the Shake It Up support page.