My Parkinson’s as seen by my friend – Mags and me by Katy Fox

My Parkinson’s as seen by my friend – Mags and me by Katy Fox

Mags and Me!

I’ve known Mags for quite a long time.  I met her in work back in the late 80’s when she worked as a solicitor and I was relatively new to the bank.  She held a very important position in the bank and to be honest when I first met her, I was quite scared of her!  Soon afterwards, I remember bumping into her in the Stephen’s Green shopping centre one night and she stopped and spoke to me.  I was surprised at how friendly and warm she was and realised that I was completely wrong in my initial judgement of her and I had nothing to be scared of anymore.

In 2004 I was lucky to find myself working directly with Mags for the first time.  I was told that she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  During the next couple of years, (which I have to say were the best years of my entire 25 year career in the bank!!!) I never really noticed any obvious symptoms, of Mag’s illness to the point that I would often forget that she even had Parkinson’s.  This was probably down to her continuous positive attitude.  As a result it came as a great shock when she told me that she was unable to continue working in the bank.

I would meet Mags occasionally for lunch after she left work and each time I arrived home I would tell my husband, how well she looked, how well she was etc, usually finishing by saying “you wouldn’t even know she has Parkinson’s”. Whenever anyone asked about her in work, I would repeat the same story.  From time to time I “bumped” into Mags as we live close by, and every single time I came away from her feeling energised just from having a 5 minute chat with her.  It was during one of these chats last September that she told me she was planning to do the Dublin City Marathon this year.

In April this year I began attending a fitness class with Mags.  At my first class I was amazed at how well Mags was doing and again wondered did the rest of the women in the class even know if she had Parkinson’s or not.  Not having done any exercise for years, I could hardly walk at the end of the class!!! The following week was a different story, I noticed how slow Mags appeared to be, it was like a different person to the week before. I asked her was she ok and she told me that her meds were “off”. I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to drive home but she said she was fine. 

A couple of weeks later, Mags organised for a group of friends to meet in her home early one Sat morning.  I was first to arrive and when I knocked at the door, Mags shouted at me to push the door open, however the door was still locked from the inside.  It took her a while to open it and when she did, she mentioned again that her meds were “off”, I followed her into the house as she “shuffled” her way back inside.  I found it quite upsetting to see her in this condition.  About a half an hour later she was back up on her feet walking around perfectly normal again.   This was really my first time to see how Parkinson’s was affecting her.  Over the last 4 months I have been out walking regularly with Mags and I’ve realised that her “off” times can happen anytime, anyplace.  I have spoken to her about it on many occasions and each time I learn a little bit more about Parkinson’s.  The more time I spend with Mags the more I think I know everything about Parkinson’s.  How wrong am I?

The Up’s and Down’s of Parkinson’s

This weekend I went with Mags and a group of friends to take part in the Great Scottish Run Half Marathon.  I had the pleasure of sharing a room with Mags for the weekend.  On Saturday morning we met up at 5.30 a.m. and headed to the airport for what promised to be a very exciting weekend. On arrival in Glasgow, Mags received a text to say our hotel reservation had been cancelled. After 5 hours of “negotiating” Mags and I were relocated to another hotel. This was a very stressful few hours and really took the gloss off the first day of our trip.  In addition I was suffering from a dose of laryngitis and finding it increasingly difficult to talk as the day went on.  When we finally got into our hotel room, we decided to go for lunch.  Mags began to struggle walking and I knew her meds were “off” again.  We joked about the fact she couldn’t walk and I couldn’t talk but the reality was that I knew my loss of voice was only a temporary one. I linked Mags around Glasgow city that afternoon and eventually we sat on a bench in Buchanan Street, watching a balloon man making all sorts of balloon shapes for kids.  As I wasn’t “allowed” to speak, I sat there thinking to myself about the fact that we were in Glasgow to do a half Marathon the next day and at that time it didn’t look like either of us would be able to take part.  Eventually Mags was able to walk again and we headed off .

Sunday was marathon day! Mags was up early having taken all her medication much earlier and was ready to go.  We had breakfast and we headed out to meet the rest of the group for the start of the half marathon.  Still unable to talk I promised Mags if I felt unwell I would pull out of the race.  With all she had to contend with, she was worried about me!!! We eventually got moving and crossed the start line at 11.20 am.  Our goal was to walk the half marathon in 3 hrs 15 mins and that meant keeping an average speed of just under 15 mins per mile. Mags had completed a half marathon earlier this year in a time of 3hrs 40 mins so it was an ambitious goal! We started walking as everyone ran past us, I began to panic thinking I didn’t want to be last in the whole race and Mags said she was tempted to start running too, but her son David told us to stick to our plan and pace ourselves. We soon settled into a nice routine and after the first two miles checked our time to see if we were on target.  Luckily, we were slightly ahead of our target and this motivated us to keep going.  Before we reached the 5 mile stage Mags felt her meds going “off” she started to jog so as to keep moving before taking her medication.  I still find it amazing that she can run but she can’t walk at times.  Thankfully this seemed to work for her and she was feeling better very soon afterwards.  What stood out most to me about the whole event was Mag’s mental focus throughout the whole race.  I have never seen anybody to concentrate, focus and be so determined to finish a race than I did on Sunday.  It was incredible to be with her and to watch her.  I was worried that it might be too much for her, but she told us to keep going.  It was because of this we kept a steady pace and completed the half marathon in 3 hrs 12 mins and 14 secs. What a sense of achievement coming over the finish line ahead of our goal time. 

A couple of hours having showered and changed back at the hotel, I had to link Mags out of our room again, what a contrast to the person who had “bounded” over the finish line only 2 hours earlier. 

This weekend was an amazing eye opening experience for me.  I went through a number of different emotions, I felt sad when I saw Mags struggle to walk, to get dressed, to get into bed. I felt guilty that I never realised the full extent of what having Parkinson’s means for Mags. I felt embarrassed that Mags was worried about me not feeling well.  I was thrilled to have completed the half marathon in less than our goal time. I felt happy that I had the privilege of spending the weekend with Mags.  But most of all I felt immensely proud of Mags and all she has accomplished to date. 

She is an inspirational and amazing women who deals with her disability so well and has so much that she can offer to help others with Parkinson’s.
Our next challenges
Dublin Half Marathon next week 17th September
Dublin Marathon 31st October 2011

Mags and Katy before the marathon

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