Around 30 people gathered in Centennial Park in 100 Mile House on Sept. 8 to bring awareness to Parkinson’s disease, a long-term degenerative disorder.
“Awareness helps,” said Philip Konrad, one of the event’s organizers and a survivor of the disease.
“I’m not shy about it. I’m sure some people are but that’s their personal feelings and I can understand that. I mean, I’ve had four uncles who all had it and of course, they didn’t realize they had Parkinson’s until they were in really bad shape. A lot of people don’t know I have it. Personally, all these people know you when you’re in good shape but hopefully, they’ll still know you when you’re not. This isn’t why I’m doing it [the SuperWalk] but it’s part of the thought process.”
Konrad and a group of people with Parkinson’s created a support group in 2016 for survivors of the disease and their families. Prior to that, Konrad and his wife, Barb, would go to the Parkinson SuperWalk in Kamloops.
Barb said the disease doesn’t receive as much attention or awareness as it should.
“A lot of people don’t know what Parkinson’s is. They associate it with Dementia, but really it’s not. It’s a neurological disease where your brain doesn’t produce dopamine as much as everybody else’s. So it affects your way of thinking, it affects your movements. It’s important to stay active physically and mentally. A lot of people, when they find out they have Parkinson’s, they think: “Oh, I can’t do anything now,” and that’s the opposite of what they should do,” said Barb.
Konrad, for whom Parkinson’s affects the left side of his body, has stayed active. He still hunts, fishes and takes part in officiating sports, such as the adult softball league in 100 Mile House.
The Konrads met June White and became friends at church. White admitted she had very little knowledge of the degenerative disorder until Barb told her all about it. White said she read as much as she could and has been impressed with Konrad’s positivity.
“I’m just amazed by Phil’s attitude. He’s happy, he smiles, he laughs, he plays cards and he goes hunting and he still paints,” said White. “I’m just amazed by his personality, he’s not a downer. He doesn’t let it get him down. If you’re positive, I think you can beat it.”
Wayne Durk is another Parkinson’s survivor who was forced to retire from his position at Interior Roads after the disease started displaying symptoms two years ago.
“I can’t do the things I used to – the hunting, the fishing. Well, I can do them but they’re harder to do. Everything is twice as hard as it used to be,” he said.
This was the first of the three Parkinson Superwalks Durk and his wife, Marguerite, have attended since the support group started them in 2016.
They joined the support group last year.
“It just helps to have other people to talk to,” concluded Marguerite.