Ahead of World Parkinson’s Day on Monday April 11, John Roche has shared his story of how he discovered he had the neurological condition and how it affected his life
Image: John Roche)
A dad of two who ignored a shoulder ache for three years and did not smile for a week was shocked when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
John Roche, 50 at the time, thought the pain was a pinched nerve which would require minor surgery.
At the same time, he did not realize he had lost control of his facial muscles and was not smiling, mistakenly thinking he was until friends and family asked if he was ok.
A trip to the doctor confirmed he had the incurable neurological condition, the Liverpool Echo reported.
Speaking ahead of World Parkinson’s Day on Monday, April 11, John said: “It was a shock obviously because I’d gone with a problem that I thought was a minor surgery. At that time, I didn’t even know Parkinson’s was an incurable neurological condition.”
What he hadn’t noticed was the ‘Parkinson’s mask’ he unwittingly wore as he lost control of his facial muscles.
“The natural thing is to think that I’m upset about something or I’m angry, because I’m quite a light hearted person, but when you’re on my side of the face, you think you’re smiling and people generally don’t tell you until eventually, those close to you will say, ‘Is everything okay? You haven’t smiled for a week.’”
John’s first symptoms appeared long before the condition was on his radar as he suffered a loss of taste and smell.
Ten years on from his diagnosis, the quantity surveyor takes 14 pills a day for the various symptoms people with the condition can experience.
Although he is losing the ability to understand numbers, he is still able to go skiing which has surprised him.
John, now aged 60, said: “Like most impairments, we need to be more aware of it and understand people’s needs, because we’re no longer the old man trembling in the corner.
“No, we’re living our lives, we’re in society, but at the click of a finger, your condition is described as either on or off.
“When you’re on, you can function reasonably normally. When you’re off, in my case, I freeze to the ground, I can’t move.
“If that happens to me in the middle of the road, which it has, I need people to understand I’m not drunk, which is something people often say.”
In December 2019 I co-founded Northern Lights, a football team for people with Parkinson’s to boost people’s exercise and mental stimulation which can help.
Dr Beckie Port, head of research communications at the Parkinson’s UK charity, said: “Parkinson’s is complex. There are over 40 symptoms which vary from freezing and rigidity to anxiety and sleeping problems. It affects everyone differently and no two people present with the same Many people tell us, they experience symptoms related to their Parkinson’s for a number of years before a formal diagnosis, but the dots were never connected.
“To date there is no definitive test for Parkinson’s, which is highly problematic, nor a cure or treatment to stop Parkinson’s progressing. But the earlier people are diagnosed in their Parkinson’s journey, the sooner they can receive help to manage their condition.”