I first met John Ryan on the plaza of the Today Show the morning before the Unity Walk in 2011. He joined our group along with his daughter and brother to help promote the Walk. John has not stopped raising awareness and funds for Parkinson’s research since then and more recently, he hasn’t stopped running. Each person’s path along their Parkinson’s journey is different. John has found the one that is working for him.
PUW Event Director
I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease in the spring of 2010 after noticing symptoms that affected my motor skills on the right side of my body. It took some time to digest this news. After about six months, I took my first steps to taking back control of my life from this disease. I participated in the 2011 Parkinson’s Unity Walk to meet others in the Parkinson’s community, as well as try to get more information about treatments and research. It was at the Team Parkinson booth that I met John and Edna Ball. I told them I had been recently diagnosed and they asked me “What exercise are you currently doing?” My reply – “I walk the dog twice a day.” To which, they smiled and shook their heads. “If you are going to stay healthy and control this disease, you need to do vigorous exercise and sweat a lot!” I took that advice to heart and began jogging short distances the next weekend and have not slowed down since.
I was never an athletic individual but not really out of shape. As I began running, I realized that my body, which had become so stiff with muscle rigidity, was actually becoming loose again and my tremors were reduced. Running was becoming the best medicine for what ailed me! So I figured the longer I run, the better I would feel. I entered my first 5K (3.1 miles) race that summer and although it wasn’t the prettiest run……. I finished!!! And I enjoyed it! I continued to run in local 5K races in my community and joined Team Fox, the fundraising arm of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
Team Fox and my friends in the Parkinson’s community have inspired me to push harder and go farther. In 2012 and 2013, I was inspired enough to register for the New York City Half Marathon (13.2 miles). For me, this was the epitome of my journey! I had gone the distance twice, raised thousands of dollars for research, and had created awareness for Parkinson’s disease through various media and social media outlets. I had accomplished what I had wanted to do with this activity. That was until my running partner asked me the inevitable question, “Why stop here??? Go for the marathon!!!” At that point, the challenge was issued on a feat that I never thought was possible, for I was not a runner. But now I realize that I AM a runner and a fighter!!!
I began training for the 2013 NYC Marathon (26.2 miles) this past May (six months prior to the race). The support I received from fellow runners and the PD community over that six month period was overwhelming and heartfelt. I decided to run the entire race together with a group of friends that we called “The Team Fox 5.” We made a pact – we start this race together and we finish this race together; we do this as a team to finish Parkinson’s disease. It was truly an amazing day that I will cherish for my entire life. The funny thing I realized when I finished was that it was more emotionally draining for me than physically draining. The love and support I received from friends, family, and the cheering people of NYC along the marathon route inspired me to carry on to the finish.
Michael J. Fox has a quote that I say as I begin each day, “We only can’t, if we don’t.” Go out there and be an active participant in your life!!! Running a marathon is not for everybody but if there is something you have always wanted to accomplish – go out there and do it. Do not let the beast known as Parkinson’s guide your destiny in life. Go out there and be active – active in your physical and mental activity and active for the Parkinson’s community. We can change the course of this disease for the millions if we all put some skin in the game. Become an active agent for change by getting involved in one way or another.
Team Captain, Team Ryan’s Hope