Local Legend

We met a legend today (June 24th). Alf Todd is a man who clearly understands how to put Parkinson’s in context and to get on with living.

When I asked him about the secrets to coping, he rattled them off quickly, like he was listing his children’s names: complaining is wasteful and isolating, draw strength from a community, laugh, and when you feel self pity, think of those who maintain a smile while dealing with so much more.

My first glimpse of Alf was an older man, slightly stooped and curved, carrying a cane while he walked in a side-to-side skating pattern to avoid freezing. 

And then Alf got on his bike, and the most delightful thing happened: as he thundered away on his peddles, standing up and rocking the bike back and forth for more power, gliding balletically between obstructions, crashing through gates and street crossings, Alf was 16 again. I mean it, 16. Not just younger or stronger, he is a playful and confident rider mid-teen athlete.

We spent the afternoon with Alf, riding a favourite route, reading some of his poetry and writings, and hearing stories from his youth, and learning about his wife of 50 years exactly.

Happy Anniversary Alf

3 Responses

  1. ‘Legend’ sounds like an appropriate title for Alf. His advice is something we should all follow. Thanks for sharing his story.

  2. Atta boy, Steven. These are exactly the types of stories that I hoped you would gather on your ride. This collection and snapshot in time will be a true treasure for many years to come. Safe journeys, my friend.

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Why We Are Doing it

You have probably heard of Parkinson’s Disease. You may even know people who suffer from it.  Get used to it, as Parkinson’s Disease is the world’s fastest growing neurological condition, set to double in number by 2040.

Parkinson’s Disease occurs when the brain’s dopamine-producing cells die prematurely. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter necessary for many functions of the brain and body, including muscular control, and its loss affects all forms of movement and balance, as well as non-motor functions such as memory, concentration and motivation.  Think of dopamine as the electricity in an electric car: without it, the lights dim and the wheels stop spinning.

There is currently no cure, no bio-markers to aid detection, and little is known about how it is triggered, except that Canadians are disproportionately afflicted

Most people living with Parkinson’s reduce or even discontinue regular intensive physical activity after their Parkinson’s diagnosis.  Why?  Their actual skills and abilities do not suddenly evaporate on the date of their diagnosis, though their mental fortitude often does.  As a result, many abandon the very restorative health practices, such as regular exercise, when they are needed the most.  For people with Parkinson’s, intensive exercise can boost energy, sharpen the mind, elevate spirits and keep the body mobile.  Studies indicate that intense exercise can help train the Parkinson’s afflicted brain to use dopamine more efficiently and be able to do more with less.

Let’s use the dopamine we have to build the lives we want.

What are We Doing

Canada is a big country.  It is home to over 100,000 people living with Parkinson’s disease, 9 in 10 of which suffer in silence, isolation, or without the support of a knowledgeable organization or community.  Starting in June 2022, we aim to cross our big country by bicycle to meet as many of these people as possible to personally deliver this message: get moving to stay moving.  

We start In Victoria, British Columbia and ride east through every Canadian province, and hundreds of cities and towns along the way.  Our route is approximately 8,000 km, and we expect to average 125 km a day, six days a week for approximately three months.  Our Spinning Wheels Tour team will include two riders with Parkinson’s Disease, as well as two ride-along supporters to keep things moving.  Along the way, we will be meeting with people whose lives are touched by Parkinson’s, and encourage them to get moving with us, get engaged in support communities, and to set up their own group athletics.

We are not athletes, just people with the resolve to do what it takes to live well with this disease, and to encourage others..  

Along the way, we hope to hear these words, “If they can do it, I can too.”