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Losing the Parkinson’s mask

Shane has sky dived and jumped off buildings to fundraise for Parkinson’s, but on 30 August he undertook an even bigger personal challenge – running 4kms in 20 minutes for the annual A Walk in the Park.

It may not be considered a big achievement for most people, but for the former electrician and high school electronics teacher, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 12 years ago, it will be something of a milestone.

Shane’s symptoms before diagnosis were what many describe as classic Parkinson’s – tremors and loss of fine motor skills. However, it was when the toe on his left shoe was being worn away because of foot drag that he knew something serious was happening to his body.

With input from his then physiotherapist wife and his own research, he had a reasonable idea that he had Parkinson’s before fronting-up for confirmation at the neurologist.

Shane underwent Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) five years ago to try to improve his health when the usual medication for Parkinson’s became inconsistent in relieving his symptoms.

He’s also a self-confessed ‘gadget man’, so the technology of the brain implant and control unit inserted under the skin in the upper chest really fascinated him.

“I was fed-up with my progress, so the DBS was a way to possibly improve my condition as well as satisfy my gadget curiosity”, says Shane.

His curiosity paid off, as he immediately lost the tremor and people noticed that he was brighter in the face, as a result of losing what is often referred to as the ‘Parkinson’s mask’.

For four years he has been medication-free and has only recently started taking a low dose again.

Shane had to give-up his love of horse riding when he began to lose balance.  However, he has found other activities to fill his life, devoting most of his time to exercise, including daily gym sessions as well as bike riding. He praises the support of his gym mates, who know “just what to do” to assist him when he is on the machines.

Since diagnosis Shane has learned Thai. A month-long holiday to Thailand with his wife to visit her family is an annual highlight, as is his participation in A Walk in the Park every year.

Shane is one of a number of people with Parkinson’s in the Geelong region, many of whom have Young Onset Parkinson’s, which affects people under 60 years of age.

There is a Geelong-Bellarine Parkinson’s Peer Support Group and various social and recreational programs are run in the region, including ‘Painting for Parkinson’s’ and the recently introduced ‘Dancing for Parkinson’s’ in Torquay.

It’s unlikely you will ever see the ex-sparky painting or dancing, but you would have seen Shane along the Yarra in his running shoes and shorts on the morning of 30 August.

You can help celebrate and support people with Parkinson's like Shane. Donate to A Walk in the Park 2015.

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