Dan Steele was in his early-40s, focused on a career as a civil servant, a role as a volunteer ski patroller and on enjoying time with his then three-year-old son when in his own words, life changed dramatically in a doctor’s office.
It was then that he received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
« It started with a little shake in my pinky finger that I didn’t think much of… then, my hands started working less and I decided to speak with my doctor. I thought it might be carpal tunnel, » Dan reflects.
After some tests, Dan’s doctor referred him to a neurologist without explaining what his thinking was. A few months later the neurologist confirmed a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. « He said, you’ve got a degenerative neurological disease for which there is no cure, » says Dan. From there, he was left to find information for himself.
He didn’t let a diagnosis slow him down
Dan left for a planned cross-country bike ride shortly after his diagnosis and now, after deep brain stimulation (DBS), he’s planning to be back on his bike again – hosting a Pedaling for Parkinson’s event on Prince Edward Island this fall.
It hasn’t always been easy, though. While he shared his diagnosis with friends and colleagues right away, adjusting to his diagnosis still brought its challenges. « I was concerned for my family. I was the major bread winner. I was concerned about how things were going to progress. I didn’t know much about Parkinson’s at the time, » he shared. If you or someone you know has Parkinson’s you can relate to that uncertainty. More recently, Dan acknowledges that non-motor and cognitive challenges have come to light.
« Thankfully, I wasn’t left to Parkinson’s alone. Parkinson Canada became my go-to place for credible information. I went to their conferences. And, in the process, I found a caring and supportive community that has always been there for me. In fact, it was at one of their conferences where I discovered the information I needed to dramatically improve my life. »
A life-changing surgery
The information he learned that day led to his DBS surgery this past summer, and according to Dan the results have been phenomenal. He recalls his neighbour didn’t even recognize him at first. His posture and gait have changed so much.
While DBS has helped with the motor symptoms, the mental health side of Parkinson’s continues to be something he has to manage. Through it all, like so many Canadians with Parkinson’s, he perseveres. Dan keeps going, demonstrating a resilience that is a hallmark of living better with Parkinson’s: No Matter What.