A Parkinson’s journey – it’s not a walk in the park

By Emma Prior

By Emma Prior

Imagine one day waking up and noticing activities that you were once more than capable of completing, have now become a struggle.

This is what life is like for people suffering with Parkinson’s, but for local Judy Ramsdale she is not going to let it get her down.

“I have learnt to live with it, you just have to. There is no cure but you can’t just stop and let it take over, so you do the best you can to keep going,” Judy said.

Parkinson’s is a dreadful, progressive neurological condition that slows the message between cells in your brain and takes away your ability to continue undertaking activities you once enjoyed and were fully capable of.

For Judy that involved a number of sports as well as her work.

“I used to play squash and tennis but once my Parkinson’s really reared its head, I could no longer play the sports I loved,” Judy said. 

“We would have a break from our tennis match for afternoon tea then when we would come back out I would try to step forward to reach the ball and physically couldn’t move my legs. My brain wouldn’t connect with my muscles.

“I also loved my job. I was a quality systems auditor and I loved it, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else but I had to give it up when I started becoming slower and couldn’t complete tasks.”

Judy’s Parkinson’s journey started 23 years ago when she noticed a number of things with her body were not right.

“It started down my left side; a shaking left hand, very sore left shoulder,” Judy said.

“I then started getting leg cramps primarily on my left and stone face, where you are almost expressionless and unable to convey through facial expressions how you are feeling.”

However, it wasn’t until 2007 that the awful news was confirmed. 

“I was in complete disbelief when the doctors told me what was wrong, I had been having symptoms for over 10 years but to hear those words are something you can not describe,” Judy said. 

As there is no cure for Parkinson’s, patients are only able to take medications to level out the symptoms they suffer, with Judy taking up to 13 tablets a day.

“It takes a while once you are diagnosed to find the right medication and dosage for you as everyone suffers differently,” Judy said.

“How one person suffers with Parkinson’s or any disease for that matter is different to the next person.

“As well as the health issues that are associated with Parkinson’s I also fell into a state of depression.

“It is frustrating, that you can still be mentally and in aspects physically able to do many things, but your brain will not connect those messages with other parts of your body.”

Although Yarrawonga Mulwala is comparatively small, there is a relatively large number of people living in the area that are currently suffering from the disease.

“Yarrawonga is so generous, there are so many people around and businesses that offer what they can to assist but to speak to somebody who has a full understanding through experience what you are going through can be so helpful,” Judy said.

For people who have recently been diagnosed Judy is only a call away. 

“That is why now when I hear of somebody else in town being diagnosed, I try to contact them to let them know there is an ear here to listen to what they are going through; just to have somebody to speak to and for them to know they are not alone,” Judy said.  

“If I can help one person get through this, I will.”

Yarrawonga also has a local support group which catches up on the first Monday of the month at the Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort for lunch and a chat to help each other through. 

Although Judy’s life is different now she has Parkinson’s, it is not all her life is about. 

“Of course, there are the bad days, but personally I am doing really well and feeling great at the moment,” Judy said. 

“I go to the gym five times a week and swear by exercising. It keeps your muscles active and doesn’t allow the disease to take over.  

“Now I want us to get to the cure, to stop others from suffering from this in the future.”

To assist in finding a cure the Yarrawonga Mulwala Parkinson’s Disease Support Group is finalising their plans for the ‘a Walk in the Park’ awareness on Sunday, September 29 starting at 11am at the Yarrawonga Yacht Club before making their way around Chinaman’s Island.

It is only $5 for adults, $1 for children and 50c for dogs to participate with all proceeds going to Parkinson’s Victoria for research. 

The first 100 people to complete the walk will receive a medal.

A sausage sizzle and tea and coffee will be on offer afterwards as well as merchandise to purchase with all proceeds going to Parkinson’s Victoria.

Guest speakers for the day will consist of Parkinson’s sufferer Carol Wood and Parkinson’s Victoria’s Emma Colin.

There will also be a number of raffles on the day with a main prize and a number of vouchers to be won, so attendees are urged to keep their tickets to be in the running for a choice of prizes.

Organisers also urge participants to look out for the magpies as its swooping season. 

For more information on the ‘Walk in the Park’ phone Judy or Kylie Ramsdale on 5744 1974 or for more information on the Parkinson’s itself call Parkinson’s Victoria on 1800 644 189.