My Story

On the first of January 2013 I went for a run as I normally would (I was a bit of an athlete you see, soccer for 26 years culminating in 6 Premier League titles, then onto Triathlons for 10 years and then mainly fun runs, including 10 City to Surfs, half Marathons and one Marathon), returning from this run, I noticed a tremor in my right hand.

It seemed very strange, so I decided to keep an eye on it for the next few weeks but it didn`t go away and I went to my GP for her to look at it. She checked it out then rang a friend she went to university with who was a Neurologist and got me an appointment the next day. I thought this to be a bit of a worry because they are booked months in advance usually.

Skip forward a few months and about April 2013 I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

As you can imagine it hit me like a lead balloon! After composing myself and coming home and calling my adult children I sat in my bedroom in a daze as my wife tried to reassure me. The kids came home and said 'Dad, don`t worry, we`ll look after you'. Well, this didn`t sit well with me, I was the one who was supposed to look after them, not the other way around. But I appreciated it and knew they would stick by me.

For the remainder of 2013 it was a bit of a blur really!

2014 – 2018 was spent bouncing around doctors and testing, juggling medication, every change made me nauseous and those 4 or so years felt like a lifetime (and now when I think back, that could have been my life if the following events didn`t take place).

The first part of 2019 I felt like I was at a tipping point in my Parkinson`s journey and could have gone either way at this time. 

In July of that year I went on a weekend away with 12 of my good mates and they obviously noticed the struggle I was having and they suggested we all band together (a team if you wish) to do something, anything really and one of the boys, Glen, came up with the name “The Dean Team”. We decided to do a marathon (a little tongue in cheek it was at the time), little did we know what was going to come in the next 18 months (and the rollercoaster began).

Not long after that my path crossed Parkinson's NSW (I think it was a call I made to their info line). Right from the start they knew exactly what I needed, they put me in contact with one of their registered nurses (Margi Edmondson) who started me on the process of applying for the NDIS to get therapies that would help me (which they knew would turn out to be quite an expense).

This process turned out to be quite an ordeal and without PNSW and Margi standing by me every step of the way, there is no way I could have stuck it through (so I fully understand how people with Parkinson's can slip through the cracks and spend their lives suffering). 

So, negotiating the NDIS application with Margi brought me to Advance Rehab Centre and the PD Warrior Program that is based on retraining the brain through exercise to compensate for the deficiencies that Parkinson's had caused. It's called Neuroplasticity!

The end of 2019 saw my application to the NDIS rejected (YES, those of you out there with an eye for details are saying to themselves, he`s been going 6 months just to get rejected) and things weren’t looking good as these therapies would be expensive.

In January 2020 my application was approved on appeal (thanks again to PNSW and Margi`s tenacity) and I continued my PD Warrior program at Advance Rehab Centre and commenced speech therapy with Connected Speech Pathology and Zula Haigh.

At that time, I had 7 Parkinson`s symptoms and was working with Amali Perrera, Melinda Cooper and Zula Haigh on these Symptoms.

My progress was quite quick and in March 2020 my mind went back to the Marathon and Parkinson's NSW, who had made all this possible and The Dean Team/Parkinson's NSW Marathon Fundraiser was born! (It was impossible really for me not to want to give back to an organization that has actually given me my life back, Fiona Jessiman (Head of fundraising for Parkinson's NSW) keeps thanking me for what my Team and I are doing for PNSW, even being in the organisation itself and seeing those with Parkinson's on a daily basis it's hard to grasp the impact Parkinson's has on your life unless you're living it and believe me when I say, Fiona and her organisation don't have to thank me, I'm the one that should thank them for giving me my life back!

I continued to work with Amali, Melinda and Zula but I had to compete in a Marathon (and chose the 2021 Blackmores Sydney Marathon in September), so I had about 18 months, not only to get running again (as I hadn't done any for several years) but to run, and survive, 42.2 km!

In May 2020, in steps Lisa Meng (Exercise Physiologist) at Advance Rehab Centre and she took on one hell of a challenge, so we went for our first run. 3km quite slow and I felt like I was going to collapse at the end (or maybe I did, I don't really remember) but Lisa was determined from the start and so was I.

Fast forward 1 year to (May 2021), a lot of work from Lisa and me and my Parkinson's symptoms have gone from 7 to 3 (in a disease that is degenerative) and my running has gone from that painful 3 km to a solid 21 kms in two and a half hours (a couple of injuries that Lisa has sorted out on the way with targeted sessions in the gym) and I'm feeling strong and confident to take on anything.

So, in giving back to the organisation that started it all (Parkinson's NSW) we are now raising much needed funds and will continue our quest to The Blackmores 2021 Sydney Marathon to help those with Parkinson's live independent, fruitful lives and beyond that, who knows what the future holds.

At this very moment, 38 people in Australia every day are diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. So if you don't know anyone affected by it, the chances are soon you will. But, tigether we can be the solution to this problem!

As a final word, I just like to say - I am living, breathing proof that this system can work wit effort and the right people around you! And we will continue, with your help to be the solution for Parkinson's NSW to give people with this chronic diease, the ability to help others like they helped me.

What exciting prospects the future holds!

Parkinson's is relentless! So To Beat Relentless, You Have To Be Relentless.

Dean Laws
The Dean Team

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