How I Spent the Rest Of My Life
By John Carlin
Nov 1, 2002 – the day my entire life changed. That is the date that I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, better known in our circles as “PD”. First… what is it? Next you find out it’s incurable. Then you make a decision, as you stand on the window sill. Do I jump or do I come back and fight it? I have been a fighter all my life, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out my decision. After struggling with it for about 6-7 years I came to the realization that PD doesn’t care who you are or what you do. It just grinds you down and keeps moving. I was not going to let it.
A neuroscientist by the name of Dr. Jay Alberts of the Cleveland Clinic discovered back in 2003 an interesting phenomenon that dealt with “Forced Exercise” on a tandem and the improvement of a Parkinsonians symptom by 35%. This is HUGE!! The secret – exercise! Specifically riding a stationary tandem bike which has brought incredible results to all his study participants (all were PWP’s (people with Parkinson’s); now numbering north of 200). As I have been known to say, “the down side of this program is that you lose weight and get in shape.”
Cycling is my life now. To feed and contain the beast, I ride long, multiple day, high mileage rides. There is a bike ride in Iowa called the RAGBRAI (Registers Annual Great Ride Across Iowa). This will be its 42nd year. This will be my 6th year with Dr. Alberts and the “Pedaling For Parkinsons” gang. I started riding in 2009 with his group of 36. It has become the standard for riding to keep the “beast at bay—PD.” Now there is somewhere between 50 – 75 of Dr. Alberts healthy riders and myself, one of usually 3-5 PWPs. We ride across Iowa in 7 days, camping every night in a new town. Together with 15-20,000 of our closest friends we pound the pavement for around 450 miles. Sheer breathtaking scenery; more corn then Orville Redenbacher could dream of and the local livestock will definitely take your breath away! Our group is able to raise awareness and spread hope, as well as information about conquering this malevolent disease.
Life throws you curve balls constantly. You have to be ready to take a swing. No matter where the hit goes you have to be ready to run to first then hope for a long enough hit to get an extra base out of it. I take my timeline and look at it a day at a time. It is not worth the mental aggravation or wasting energy dwelling on it when you need to look forward. Trying to figure out the future is just as fruitless and you might as well whip out your crystal ball. Shaking (no pun) yourself free of the mental gyrations is a must . The more you dwell on it the crazier you’ll get. Take it a day at a time finding the good in things around you. I was asked once by a caregiver whose husband had just been recently diagnosed, how I stay motivated and how do I continue on. I told her “I just do it”!
That may be my swan song. But it’s the only answer I can give when talking to folks about motivation and a positive outlook. You are the only one that can pull yourself out of this, so “Just Do It”!
Join John Carlin and the rest of Team CNI at Elephant Rock Cycling Festival on June 1, 2014. By joining Team CNI, you support individuals with neurological conditions. Click here for more information about this event.