Getting an early-onset Parkinson’s (EOPD) diagnosis in 2014 was one of the hardest things Steve has ever faced. So much so, he chose to keep the news to himself for many years. As an avid biker before his diagnosis, he thought a Parkinson’s diagnosis meant the end of his cycling days. But after learning that physical exercise is one of the best ways to help slow down the progression of Parkinson’s, Steve got back on his bike.
Always a cyclist, Parkinson’s or otherwise
Steve’s long-standing love for cycling has come full circle. Since learning about the benefits of his favorite hobby and Parkinson’s fundraiser cycling events like Pedaling for Parkinson’s, he saw his two worlds come together and joined a cycling event as soon as possible – the 2018 Parry Sound Pedaling for Parkinson’s event.
“I loved everything about it,” says Steve. He experienced for the first time the support people impacted by Parkinson’s receive at these events. Steve recalls walking through the crowd after the event looking to connect with other Canadians with Parkinson’s and was astounded to discover that out of almost 400 participants, there were very few people with Parkinson’s there! Imagine learning how effective cycling can be for your condition, and then witnessing an absence of people affected by it at a cycling event.
A mission to ride with other Canadians impacted by Parkinson’s
Since his ride in Parry Sound, Steve has been determined to get more people with Parkinson’s involved in cycling (or any other physical activity.) He and his friend Mike Loghrin founded a cycling group called Rigid Riders to connect with other Canadians living with Parkinson’s and help them discover their own cycling abilities. Still, Steve felt there was a barrier for people with Parkinson’s as many would come up with a myriad of reasons to decide cycling wasn’t for them. They echoed each other with a similar fear: “I don’t think I can do it.” Especially when talking to people who were diagnosed with EOPD like himself but who are reluctant to get on a bike, Steve says, « The day you were diagnosed, you left the office with the same abilities you went in with, only your self-perception changed that day.” Mike was once reluctant about cycling with Parkinson’s, too. Now he’s the co-captain of a cycling group proving to himself and others that cycling makes all the difference when managing your Parkinson’s.
A common question: Can people with Parkinson’s ride bikes?
The short answer is, yes.
The best part about cycling is that if a standard upright bike doesn’t work for you any longer there are several adjustments you can make that help to meet you where you’re at physically. For example, if you have balance issues, you can switch out a typical upright bike for a recumbent trike. Experiencing muscle weakness? Add pedal-assist to your ride.
But what Steve wants you to know is that you’re capable of more than you think. There’s nothing like receiving a diagnosis of chronic brain disease to make you question what you’re still able to do. Steve says, “Despite your fears and the voice inside your head saying, ‘I can’t,’ your body is saying, ‘I can, and I need to.’” Cycling aside, Steve’s message is about getting active and pushing yourself. “If cycling isn’t your thing, there are so many activities people with Parkinson’s can take part in,” says Steve. “Boxing, dancing, or anything that gets your heart rate up!”
A three-month ride across Canada to show what’s possible
Steve and Mike know there are pockets of Canadians with Parkinson’s across Canada who are still reluctant to try cycling. That’s why he, Mike, Mike’s wife Darlene and their friend Jim Redmond set off on a cross-country cycling trip they’ve aptly named The Spinning Wheels Tour. With dozens of stops along the way, spanning the course of three months, Steve and his crew are sure to inspire Canadians living with Parkinson’s to try cycling and discover the sense of freedom and empowerment that comes with it.
Beginning in Victoria BC, Steve, Mike and Jim dipped their bikes into the Pacific Ocean to kick off the ride of a lifetime. Darlene joins the cyclists by RV sporting signage that promotes the message and purpose of the trip and informs motorists that cyclists are near and to drive carefully.
We’ll be following Steve, Mike, Darlene and Jim over the next three months to see where they’ve been and whose lives they inspired along the way. Steve is also blogging about their day-to-day adventures. You can follow along with how this massive undertaking impacts the mind, body, and spirit of Steve and the crew.