I finished my first year of college in late May and I do not start the second year of my BA in English and History until late September. The previous 8 months had been dominated by college and the course, especially when my wife was at work and the break has understandably left a large hole in my life. My friends and family are all very supportive and I am not short of social encounters, but I am not sure I am suited to being a man who lunches for the next 3 months! Well not 5 days a week anyway. Physically, I am very restricted by Parkinson’s disease (PD) with respect to what I can and cannot do. Fatigue is a huge problem for me, especially anything involving sustained repetitive actions like swimming or hiking. I did try fishing for a couple of years but this required a lot of help from other people. Also, each fishing excursion left me exhausted for rest of that day and I suffered for a couple of days afterwards.
Before PD entered my life I played a lot of golf. In the spring, summer and autumn I played about four times a week (sometimes more), and I played twice a week even in winter. I was self-employed for the 6 years prior to the onset of PD symptoms and was able to flex my working life around my social life. I also ran social golf competitions and arranged golf trips for groups of us that regularly played together. The golf club is only 5 minutes from my home and it is set in a water meadow and river valley. It is a very scenic location and there is a lovely place to just sit on the 19th hole balcony and relax. Golf was therefore a huge part of my life; my exercise, my relaxation, my socialising and even my business networking. It was not easy to stop playing but PD and particularly fatigue stole my golfing world from me. I did not stop playing golf without a big fight however. I used to carry my golf clubs pre PD, sometimes playing 36 holes in one day. As my PD progressed I started using a trolley, then a powered trolley and finally an electric buggy. Then 18 holes of golf became 15 holes, then nine holes. Before this week my last golf outing was over a year ago with my son at a local nine hole course where he is a member. It took me several weeks to recover from the resulting fatigue and several months for the pain in my arms to subside. It took my ego even longer to recover as I had a few air shots (missing the ball completely with the golf club). I was never a star golfer, with a pre-PD handicap of 19, unlike my son who plays off eight. However, to play golf to any handicap you do need to hit the ball!
Anyway, my temporary loss of college activities and my fear of becoming a man who lunches provoked me to risk trying to play a few holes of golf again earlier this week. To say my wife was unimpressed with this idea would be an understatement, but my mind was made up and I was unstoppable. To try to minimise the potential of embarrassing myself I teed off alone at 09.00, mid week, using a buggy at the aforementioned short nine hole course. I managed to play seven holes in just over an hour, only lost one ball and my arms were, and remain, pain free. More important than anything else, I did not miss the ball once. My consultant had previously warned me that golf is neurologically a very challenging game to play. With this in mind, I concentrated on accuracy rather than distance and swung the club very carefully. One hour of play and seven holes of golf on a short course may not sound like much of an achievement but it certainly was for me; everything is relative. The downside was that I collapsed on the bed when I got home and slept for over 2 hours. My days of playing 36 holes in one day are long gone but may be seven holes will become nine holes when I try again.
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in February 2004 at the age of 51 having experienced undiagnosed symptoms for at least 4 years prior to that. My wife and I have five adult children and three grandchildren. We are fortunate in that we live in a lovely rural part of the east of England, with King’s Forest situated nearby for my much needed, therapeutic dog walks. I spent most of my working life involved in electronic, mechanical manufacturing management within the Worldwide Broadcasting industry and I am extremely lucky to have travelled extensively through my work. Since I was diagnosed I have dedicated much of my time to researching all aspects of PD and trying to both support others with this illness and raise the profile of PD. As well as writing a blog on this website, I administer an internet patient forum for people with PD which I set up in September 2008 and it currently has over 150 members. I also administer the forum’s Facebook, Friends Reunited and Twitter pages. My younger son recently ran in a half marathon race to raise funds for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust. I am currently studying for a BA (Hons) in English and History as a mature student.