Power hour The gloves are off in Fiona's fight against Parkinson's"If I didn't have Parkinson's, I probably wouldn't have tried boxing, or table tennis, or met amazing people I'm proud to call my friends

Published date20 April 2022
Publication titleAirdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
If speaking with conviction can ever be casual, that's exactly the manner in which Fiona seemingly gives a nod to living a life with Parkinson's. The way she sees it, it's the hand she's been dealt - and she's prepared to roll with the punches

Seven years ago, at the age of 57, Fiona began to experience stiffness down the left side of her body. When her left hand slowed while typing at work, she suspected repetitive strain injury. Then, her left leg failed to keep up as she crawled through the water on her twice weekly swims, causing backache as her body attempted to compensate.

On visit to a GP in November 2015, she asked if the symptoms described were indicative of a certain condition — and received categorical assurances they were not.

"I just knew there was something wrong," said Fiona, of Chapelhall, who then consulted a different GP, who referred her to a neurologist at Hairmyres Hospital.

There, within the Care for the Elderly Unit where the specialist in movement disorder practised, tests to assess the agility of arms, legs, muscle tone, gait and balance, revealed she wasn't swinging her arms as she walked, and one side of her body was markedly slower than the other.

Having confided in no-one other than her husband, she told her employer she was taking holidays — while, in truth, her periods of leave were for consultants' appointments, rather than road trips or lazing on a beach.

In 2016, Fiona was sent for a DaTscan — imaging technology that uses small amounts of a radioactive drug to help determine how much dopamine (a hormone which plays a vital role in sending messages to the part of the brain that regulates movement and coordination) is still available in a person's brain. In conclusion, the neurologist told Fiona she had "subtle Parkinson's features." With hindsight, Fiona now realises that he was telling her it was Parkinson's disease.

This was later to be confirmed in a letter received by a 59-year-old Fiona in 2017, which spoke of "changes in dopamine pathways," consistent with the progressive condition, Parkinson's.

"With diagnosis, I felt relief," admits Fiona, who, like most people, had associated Parkinson's disease with shuffling, frail elderly people in their late 70s or 80s.

"Finally, there was something to make sense of all these random things that were happening to me. I had thought: 'brain tumour, something terminal.' It came as a huge relief."

By then, Fiona had lost 70 per cent of her brain's dopamine-producing neurons. Her...

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