Remaining positive is crucial says Parkinson's sufferer Patrick Lacey
Parkinson's Disease isn't life ending, it's life changing.
That's the motto of 69-year-old Patrick Lacey from Murrintown who was first diagnosed with the illness in 2013. However, despite his positive attitude and newfound lust for life, Patrick admits that it has taken him some time to learn to accept his illness.
'I had a shake in the hand and a slight shake in the leg. At times my speech would be affected; I didn't notice but everyone else did,' he explained. 'I played handball and found that it was becoming more difficult. You'd be feeling annoyed with yourself for missing a few shots. Parkinson's affects your concentration but I didn't realise that I had it at the time.'
The initial shock was a 'devastating' blow for Patrick and his wife Eileen, who had to learn to cope with the disease and all of its implications. According to Patrick, he didn't cope well with the illness for a long time.
'I would be devastated and I would be depressed,' he said. 'I wouldn't be sleeping. And then there was the tiredness. The tiredness is one of the worst things. I could be in right form and then the next thing, it would hit me. It would sometimes happen during the handball games and I would have to go and sit in the car for half an hour.'
Despite Eileen's efforts to encourage Patrick to attend some Parkinson's support groups, he didn't feel ready for a long time. It wasn't until he came across a support group in the hospital that his attitude towards his illness made a turnaround.
'Eileen was worried because I wasn't in great form and then she found about this group in the hospital. We got a letter from my doctor and I got into a group of six and it was the best day's work she has ever done,' he said.
'They ran a course with nurses, a physio, an occupational therapist and a speech therapist and out partners could come too.'
During the course, Patrick and Eileen learned how diet, lifestyle changes and certain aids can transform life for somebody suffering with Parkinson's. Patrick also discovered that the illness affects everyone in different ways.
'There's no common ground. Everyone has different complaints,' he said. 'Getting up out of a chair is one that is common. It may seem simple to others but it can be a challenge for us. My family bought me an orthopaedic chair for Christmas and I don't know myself.'
Following the success of the first six week block with the group, Patrick continued to attend. It proved to be a huge support to him in the last several months, particularly when he lost his job with Irish Pride after 33 years.
'Losing my job set me back a good bit. They say that stress is a big thing with Parkinson's and I didn't cope well at first. But I kept attending the group which was great,' he said.
Now back on the right track, Patrick is enjoying some of his life passions once more, namely playing handball with St Joseph's.
'I play handball three or four times a week. My friends walk me on to the court as I wouldn't be great at walking but the minute I go on to the court, things change. I don't know why!' he explained. 'I would play twice a day if I had the chance.'
Patrick also enjoys taking part in yoga classes in Coolcotts every week, along with several other people who are experiencing Parkinson's.
'We do the yoga and then afterwards we have some tea, cakes and a chat together,' he said. 'It's good to meet the lads and talk about how we have been getting on.'
Patrick and some of the others in the group are also hoping to take part in the Parkinson's Unity Walk on April 10, which will begin on Merrion Street Lower in Dublin at 11.30 a.m. and travel around the Merrion Square Park. The walk is open to everyone and is being organised as part of Parkinson's Awareness Week.
Events such as this, as well as the wider awareness campaigns, are important for Patrick, as he feels that they help to spread understanding.
'It's important that people realise that it's not just you who suffers. Parkinson's changes life for everyone, including your family,' he said. 'It is important for people to learn that you have to accept help for the illness but don't let people do everything for you.'
When it comes to Parkinson's, Patrick believes that a positive mental attitude is key.
'You can sit down and feel sorry for yourself or you can get up and get moving,' he said. 'You can be a loser or a winner in this. To be a winner, you have to be positive.'