Car­ers in touch

YOURS (UK) - - Contents -

When Ruth Brin­klerLong was di­ag­nosed with Parkin­son’s dis­ease at the age of 48, her whole fam­ily went into shock. But Ruth held her emo­tions to­gether and promised she wouldn’t let Parkin­son’s beat her. Four years on, Ruth says in a strange way, Parkin­son’s has done her a favour. “The shock di­ag­no­sis made me re­alise there’s more to life than money or work. Now, I wouldn’t change my life for any­thing. I get huge sat­is­fac­tion from try­ing to sup­port other peo­ple with Parkin­son’s.” Ruth wants to en­cour­age other peo­ple fac­ing any life-chang­ing di­ag­no­sis that there is al­ways some­thing pos­i­tive to come out of a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion.

Ruth had ex­pe­ri­enced se­vere pains in her shoul­der and no­ticed that her right­hand side was weaker. She thought noth­ing of it and con­tin­ued work­ing in her job at John Lewis, where she had been em­ployed for more than 30 years.

She and her hus­band, David, en­joyed life to the full but even­tu­ally the pains got so bad, Ruth’s GP sent her for a se­ries of tests. She will never for­get the mo­ment when a hospi­tal con­sul­tant called for David, pulled the cur­tains around Ruth’s bed and told her she had Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

“It was a huge shock. I couldn’t take it in. The con­sul­tant told me not to look up any­thing on the in­ter­net, apart from on the of­fi­cial Parkin­son’s web­site, oth­er­wise I might scare my­self. Of course, I took no no­tice and by the time I got home from hospi­tal, I had con­vinced my­self that I would very quickly be in a wheel­chair.”

Af­ter a few days, Ruth made a plan to cope with the changes in her life and make the best of them, so she took early re­tire­ment from the job she loved. To­day, she is a shin­ing ex­am­ple of how some­one in the prime of life has faced a dev­as­tat­ing di­ag­no­sis but used her sit­u­a­tion to help oth­ers. She is chair­man of her lo­cal Parkin­son’s sup­port group and of­ten helps out at na­tional events. But she’s the first to ad­mit it hasn’t all been plain sail­ing.

“I find it very hard to get go­ing in the morn­ings and my brain wants to do more but my body won’t let me. If I have a low mo­ment, I give my­self a talk­ing to and tell my­self that a lot of peo­ple are worse off than me.” She’s also a firm be­liever in ex­er­cise to help keep her symp­toms at bay and does three classes a week in­clud­ing Pi­lates and Tai Chi. She wants to en­cour­age peo­ple with Parkin­son’s and their car­ers to get in touch with their lo­cal group. “Peo­ple are of­ten re­luc­tant to join a group be­cause they think it will be all doom and gloom, but we have a lot of fun and laugh­ter. If you look at me, you wouldn’t think I have Parkin­son’s, but I do, and it helps talk­ing to other peo­ple who un­der­stand. “Strangely enough, hav­ing Parkin­son’s has been the mak­ing of me. I want to make a dif­fer­ence and I’m de­ter­mined to do that.”

■ World Parkin­son’s Day is on April 11. Call 0808 800 0303 or visit www.parkin­sons.org.uk

‘Hav­ing Parkin­son’s has been the mak­ing of me’

Ruth has used her di­ag­no­sis to help other suf­fer­ers

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