DIAGNOSED with the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, Coolamon’s Bill Thompson is determined not to let it control his life.
Despite the initial shock, the well-known solicitor has taken a proactive approach to fighting the condition, which has affected the left side of his body.
Now, he is sharing the knowledge, skill and expertise which have helped him maintain everyday normality and has urged others to do the same.
“One of the big things is that anything that’s unknown often creates fear and uncertainty, but if you can get out and talk to not only professionals, but people who are affected, it can give you inspiration and encouragement,” he said.
“What concerns me is sometimes people are hesitant to share.”
Mr Thompson was being plagued by an old football injury for years and a visit to Riverina Hand Therapy resulted in a referral to a neurologist.
“When the specialist said it was Parkinson’s it was a bit of a shock,” he said. “I’m lucky it’s the early stages (and) that I’m not involved in manual labour, I can still do mowing and gardening, but I’d be restricted if I was relying on physical strength.”
Since the diagnosis Mr Thompson has attended seminars facilitated by the Wagga Parkinson’s Support Group, had an occupational therapist visit his workplace and spoken with a number of people who’ve experienced it.
He is currently undertaking a four-week specialist LSVT BIG physiotherapy program, provided by aged care services at the Forrest Centre, which aims to help make improvements both mentally and physically – and it’s beginning to show.
“(The program) is going through an exercise regime, doing up buttons, doing up shoes, looking at strategies of how to do things and it’s virtually retraining the brain,” he said.
Mr Thompson is now picking things up and shredding paper using his left arm and even doing up buttons.
“I used to make sure my wife had all the buttons done up so I could just pull the shirt on.
“It’s incredible, just the little things, changing a pillowcases, getting keys and phones out and putting it back in the pocket,” he said.
Parkinson’s Disease affects the brain’s ability to control movement.
Mr Thompson said most people thought of the disease as people having tremors, but about 30 per cent of people living with the disease don’t develop the tremor.
He said people were often confused about the symptoms of Parkinson’s, with one of his mutual clients hearing that he had dementia.
“I’ve found people often hear rumours, it’s better to be upfront and hopefully that will encourage and benefit other people, too,” he said.
“Once you tell people your condition and they’re aware that it can have some physical effects, but you’re still capable mentally of undertaking your work, I think that gives people confidence.”