Over a decade ago, Jim Wetherell started to notice an occasional quivering in his hands. He took the tremor problem to his primary care physician, and then to a neurologist.
The neurologist pronounced the Parkinson’s diagnosis that sent his life into a short-term tailspin. However, getting back on his bicycle and riding it a number of times per week corrected his course. He now trains several times per week on a recliner-style, three-wheeled bike, mostly riding around Riverside County, CA.
Of course the Parkinson’s diagnosis changed his life and introduced many taxing new circumstances and realities. However, it gave him an opportunity to adopt a new passion – bicycling, and a new nickname – Parky. Like many of the one million plus people living with Parkinson’s, his tremor was one of the minor inconveniences that interrupted his life. Waking up in the morning can be more of a long and slow ordeal.
Getting the day started includes waiting for medications to kick in, as well as gradually stretching his frozen arms, legs, torso and neck. From time to time, his body will surprise him with an “off” episode in the middle of the day, where his muscles will feel like they want to shut down. For someone that may be twenty miles from home on a bicycle, the possibility of ending up temporarily stranded is quite real. People living with Parkinson’s often compete with fatigue, serious trouble sleeping, and difficulty with balance and walking.
During the last few days of July, Parky rode for over 385 miles across Iowa in a ride dubbed RAGBRAI. 385 miles in six days is a feat for anybody. For Parky, the fact that he is battling Parkinson’s disease, which robs his body of the precious chemical dopamine, makes his efforts worthy of a hearty round of applause, and even a tear of touching inspiration.
RAGBRAI , or The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is an annual seven-day bicycle ride across Iowa. He completed 385 of the 441 mile trek; and, finished each leg of the ride on each of the first five days. It was an amazing moment for Parky, because on his first visit to RAGBRAI in 2004, he was not able to complete a day’s ride, even once. Considering that Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease; and, It eats away at people’s abilities over time, Parky had beat the odds. He had worked hard, and beat back the progressive nature of the disease. He had made significant progress in two-year’s time.
On day six, Parky writes, “It’s Friday morning, & I’m still in it! I have ridden up every hill that has been put in front of me. I have not walked up any hill.”
It was an easier day. “Only forty-eight miles today. I felt like I had it in the bag.”
However, some challenges arose that taxed Parky. “ … for the 1st time in this ride my legs weren’t able to do what I needed them to do. I don’t think it was the Parkinson’s. I was just exhausted, out of gas.”
Ironically, on this day that should have been somewhat easier than the previous days, Parky found himself completing the last eleven miles with he and his bike abord a shuttle vehicle.
“And with that, the negative thoughts started. ‘I had failed—I had given up.’ ‘Could I have made it?’ ‘Should I have gone on?’ I was feeling pretty low,” wrote Parky.
But then the redeeming thoughts. He had logged over 400 miles, and completed five days of the race. He could not let a few miles spoil the accomplishme