In a little over a month, I will celebrate the tenth anniversary of my diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Ten years ago, I was working and Cecily was not, and both of our girls were still in college. I was healthy or at least I thought I was, and I was fully engaged in the pursuit of the American dream. Then the doctor’s visit where I heard “You have Parkinson’s disease “which shifted my reality. With Cecily’s help, I was able to adjust to this new chapter of my life.
Parkinson’s has given me an endless task of pills and physical challenges. I am not complaining. I am fortunate that the disease is progressing slowly, but we can’t stop the march of time.
Parkinson’s has also given us a new community that participates in our journey. This community consists of a number of entities. First and foremost of which is a stronger family unit. The Harmon “Wonder Women” have shared the good, bad and the ugly. They are the foundation of our journey with PD.
Second is our friends, new or old. Without them, we are an empty shell. Thirdly is our TeamFox family. They make me laugh and they make me cry with their extraordinary feats and accomplishments. When we meet old Foxes or new ones, there is an instant bonding and understanding. The PD Warriors, whether part of TeamFox or not, make up a strong brotherhood of support and love that makes this journey much easier. Their focus is not on how many times they fall, but how many times they get back up.
So, my time with Parkinson’s has passed quickly. We have not found the cure, yet. We are moving forward. A number of promising research projects are in trials that may relieve symptoms and be almost as good as a cure. But that is not enough. We have lost too many of our fellow warriors, with the passage of time.
Recently, our family joined TeamFox in a 10K at the Disney Marathon weekend. When I crossed the finish line, I reflected on friends who have passed away with PD this year. I realized we are not doing enough. TIME IS OUR ENEMY!
THE TIME IS NOW TO RE-DEDICATE MYSELF TO FINDING A CURE. PLEASE JOIN ME. LET’S END THIS DISEASE.
A few years ago on my mother’s birthday, she found one of her long-lost childhood friends on Facebook. Needless to say, she was really, really excited.
So imagine just how excited she got when that friend and her husband ended up moving about 40 minutes away. Since then, Mom and Dad have spent a lot of time with Desiré and her husband, Jack.
That lifelong friendship took another huge step forward recently when Jack announced he would be doing the Tri Rock Triathlon in Clearwater for Team Fox in my dad’s honor. Talk about friendship, right? Jack also had an uncle who battled Parkinson’s.
My name is Jack Foard. My good friend Bob Harmon has Parkinson’s.
Since his diagnosis some years ago Bob has given everything he has to do battle with the disease, but not just for himself, he has been fighting for every single person and every single family afflicted by the disease. In my own family, a dear uncle, Ted Bell lost the fight a few years back.
Bob has raised ten’s of thousands of dollars for Team Fox, funding worldwide Parkinson’s research. As the hundreds of people Bob has personally helped deal with the disease will tell you, Bob lives a full life made fuller by focusing on others.
Today I am focusing on Bob. I’m pulling my 67 year old body into shape to finish this sprint triathalon hoping that folks like you, folks who want to win the race against Parkinson’s will give a few bucks in Bob’s honor (or in honor of a loved one.)
I’m swimming, biking and running (walking actually) to honor Bob Harmon and the selfless way he has helped anyone and everyone touched by this cruel disease. And for Uncle Ted, a dear man and a fine athlete in his day. And for you and your loved ones too. The dollars you pledge today will be responsible for the improved treatments of tomorrow and someday the cure. Thank you so much for taking the time to make a pledge now.
Dad, Mom and Emily will be there as Jack raises money for his uncle, my dad, and all of you fighting this cause with us.
In 2006, at the age of 57, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic, progressive, neurological
disease. That year I retired to enjoy the fruits of over 40 years of work. Like all people who receive life-changing news, I was devastated, but I was fortunate that I had a wise wife. Cecily reacted to the news
in an unexpected way. Her response was “Thank God it is not something that is going to kill you in 90 days. We can deal with this.”
Retirement offered many opportunities to do things you really never had done before. One of those was golf. I had played golf on a very sporadic basis during my life, but not in a way to have a golf swing.
Over the years my game has improved, but I knew that I would only be a mid-handicap player due to rigidity, a major symptom of Parkinson’s, and the hourly fluctuation of symptoms caused by the short efficacy of the medications. Despite the challenges, golf along with other exercise seemed to slow the progression of the disease.
It is every golfer’s dream to make a hole in one. So on May 6, 2013, I was ecstatic to achieve that dream. Of course I celebrated and then went back to playing golf. I was different then before because now I knew I could make a hole in one on any par 3, because I had done it. Being an optimist didn’t hurt either.
On September 14, 2014, I was fortunate to make my second hole in one. Again it was a time for celebration. Both holes in one were made on my home two courses at Lake Ashton, but they were on separate courses.
Eight days later on September 22nd we reached the first par 3, my golfing partners were giving me a hard time about since I had gotten a hole in one the week before, why don’t you just do it again. Laughing I stepped up to the ball and hit it. To my surprise it was a good shot, and to our surprise it went in the hole.
Two holes in one in eight days.
The odds of that happening are astronomical, even for a player who doesn’t have Parkinson’s.
I reflected on the accomplishment and tried to put in context. I have spent the last eight years living with Parkinson’s and preaching to all that will listen to keep active, positive and fight the fight. You never know what you can accomplish when you try.
Maybe next Monday they will find a cure for Parkinson’s.
We started off the month with the whole family gathering for the 5th Annual Golf for the Cure. For those who remember last year where everyone told me “You did to much,” I made a pledge that I would get more help this year. Well, I lived up to that pledge and was fully recovered two days after the tournament. Thanks to all who helped me carry the load especially my family.
The event once again showed the generosity of the Lake Ashton community. We raised over $47,000 this year, which brings our five year total to over $200,000 (including matches through the Michael J Fox Foundation). The event also had a few surprises for Bob (I hate surprises). Since the event coincided with the MJFF MVP dinner, which we were unable to attend, and members of the foundation were unable to come to our event. Hence the surprise, we received a two-part video with Stephanie Paddock from the foundation and Michael J Fox with a personal message for our community and my family. Due to a production glitch, Emily’s name was left out. When the family told me of the problem the night before two things happened. The foundation went out of their way to send a letter to Em and a picture from Michael thanking her during MVP. But the best thing that happened was Emily’s immediate response. She said: “Dad this isn’t about me, it’s about finding a cure.” Boy, does she get it or what.
So, thank you again to all those who helped us, all of the donors, and to the Lake Ashton community, you are part of the effort to Find the Cure. Thank you Emily for reminding me of the lessons we have previously learned.
I know that apathy is typical in PD patients. It has always driven me crazy when I see my fellow journiers (I made this word up, but it works for me) not being aggressive or active in pushing the beast back. Last week, I told Cecily that I was “losing traction” on our sponsor relationships for our fifth golf tournament. She reminded me of the great year we had in 2013 and we don’t always have to be better. It sounded un- American. Don’t we always strive to do better?
So I sat on my ass for a day and reflected. I came away conflicted but directed. From a fundraising standpoint, I am comfortable in knowing the generosity universe in a small community has a limit. Re-energized I caught up on my tournament timeline. Some pluses, some minuses … but every contribution regardless of historical numbers means so much. So to all of us on the money train of charitable efforts, DO YOUR BEST AND FORGET THE BUDGET AND HAVE FUN.
From the health side, (apathy or even depression) not every day is “fantastic,” but is a day to make the best out of. Actually every day should be fantastic, because we are blessed to have it and there are not promises for tomorrow. Do we feel good everyday? No. But it is like golf. It is not how good your best shot is, it is how much good you can do with a bad shot.
So if you find me sitting on my ass and apathetic, kick me in the ass. Just don’ t kick my foot because it may be already on the way to my own ass. For anyone out there who loses their drive to take the best out of what we have, take heart. You are not alone. Together we will move forward.
TWO SHOES ON AGAIN, as soon as I can get it out of my ass.
It was really hard for me to contain myself this year when it came to a Christmas gift for Dad. I came up with the idea of making a book full of photos of his (our) Parkinson’s journey.
I reached out to a handful of our closest Team Fox friends to add their words of what Dad means to them.
Needless to say, it was a giant hit.
Dad spends so much time doing things for others and making sure they aren’t down. I wanted to do everything I could to show him that he isn’t alone either. That all of these people are ready and able to help pick him up when he’s feeling down, too.
Almost two years ago, I met a man through the Michael J Fox Foundation mentor program named John Ryan. I was immediately drawn to him because of his outgoing personality. I don’t know if John has ever met a stranger. Needless to say we became friends, and now call each other “my brother from another mother.” John was running his first half marathon right after we first met which was a challenge for him. Somewhere along the way John began talking about running in the NYC marathon. I told him if he crazy enough to do it I would be there to support him.
Well, he was crazy enough and last weekend I found myself in NYC along with Cecily and Kate (Emily was not able to join us because of work). My promise to John not only was being fulfilled, but Kate had pitched an offer to the Foundation to take pictures of the event, which included bringing Jason Plotkin, an Emmy award winning photo journalist, and his wife Melissa. So instead of just being there to see John, we were included in the Fox Foundation weekend race plans.
This weekend rates number three in my life’s best moments, only after marrying my wife, Cecily, and the birth of our twins. Sorry hole-in-one you weren’t even close. It wasn’t because we were in close proximity to Michael J Fox, his family, and members of the cast from his new television show, but it is because we were part of a large community of people with a common cause — the cure for Parkinson’s disease. Within this group there is an intense bonding process that goes well beyond normal friendships. There is no single hero, but hundreds of friends supporting the runners and thousands more who weren’t there physically, but were in spirit. Sure, the runners were running for themselves, but many of them had the name of the person they were running for in their pocket or on their shirts. What they may not have realized prior to the race was that they were running for all of us in the Parkinson’s community.
At our cheering section, we spent the day cheering for those we knew and those we didn’t know. We laughed, yelled and even shed a tear or two (buckets). There were moments of understanding that we can do more, and there were moments of pride in our friends who were running, but the realization of the power of the relationships we had and were building was overwhelming. This experience that I had was happening on every block of the race. Not for Parkinson’s but for many different reasons. On one side trip (to find a restroom), I even heard a spectator yell “go runners.”
There were two moments in the day that stand out in my mind, as really special. The first was when John Ryan, Tim Ryan, Sue Bilotta, Gwen Schroeder, and AJ Capuzzi (a neighbor of John’s who was not a runner, but offered to join him) reached our cheering section. The police had done a great job of keeping spectators off the street, until then. Grown men cried and hugged (not me of course- any pictures to the contrary are photo shopped), beautiful sweaty women warriors were embraced and high-fived, husbands were congratulated by their family (eventually). All of it was captured on tape until the camera woman (Kate) was drawn into the celebration. Here’s the video, but as a warning, bring a Kleenex.
The second moment was when Mike Kelly, a new friend of mine, reached us. He had started later and it was getting cold (actually colder) and dark. He was freezing cold and tired, but he was determined. Before he reached the surging crowd, Michael J Fox met him with a hug and joined him to finish the race. As they took off up the street both Mikes broke into a run. Yep, a second bucket of tears. When I saw Mike Kelly after the race, at the post race party, his hands were so cold that I gave him my hand warmers (which were harder than if I had to give up my wife). This moment was not about the fact that Michael J Fox joined him, it was about his determination to finish and that people were there to support him, whether they were famous or not.
I know this feel good feeling will diminish over time, but not by much. It will lift me up when I am down. It will remind me if I think I can, then I can (think/able). I hope it will do the same for you. I can always go to the website and watch for a couple of minutes and be right back there.
Oh I forgot to mention John and Mike have Parkinson’s.
Last but not least, the big reveal- I will NOT be running in next year’s race- these guys and girls are crazy!