Dispelling sterotypes

The internet is still a-whir with the passing of Robin Williams, even though a couple of weeks have passed since the news broke. It’s hardly surprising – the guy was a comedy and film legend. However, his apparent suicide also got me thinking about Parkinson’s, what it must mean to those affected, and how it’s not surprising that it can trigger depression.

Back in April, Doha Bay Running Club was honoured to welcome 444 Parkinson’s Traveler – Marcus Cranston – as he made his epic non-stop attempt to run 4 miles in 44 countries in 4 weeks/ 4 days starting on 4/4/14.

Cranston, a colonel in the US Air Force was diagnosed with Parkinson’s back in 2010 at the age of 44. And so to raise funds for research into the condition and to increase awareness about the condition, he was undertaking the 444 attempt – a challenge for any regular runner.

DRBC meets 444 Parkinson's Traveler.

DRBC meets 444 Parkinson’s Traveler.

I’m not sure what I was expecting but on meeting Cranston for his Doha 4-miler, he seemed like a regular runner. Eager to meet everyone, joking about getting slower, encouraging newer runners to keep going, lamenting a tight flight schedule and so on.

I guess I had some preconceived ideas as to what a Parkinson’s sufferer should be like. When I was five years old, a new couple moved into our street. The husband, aged 60 plus, had the condition and I can always remember being a little fearful about meeting him simply because his hands shook. That’s all I can remember – I am ashamed to say I can’t even recall their names and even at that young age I had stereotyped and stigmatized the couple purely by illness. Of course, that was 30 odd years ago, but it was wrong.

Chatting and telling us about his previous runs, while making easy work of the desert conditions here in Qatar, Cranston was as normal as any runner can be. There was simply no way anyone could have told on first meeting him that he too is battling Parkinson’s.

While impressively blowing to shreds any previous ideas I may have had about what it’s like to be a Parkinson’s

Cranston running in Doha.

Cranston running in Doha.

sufferer, meeting Cranston emphasized why so much more needs to be done to invest in the research which desperately needs to be done into this condition.

This silent burden is potentially gnawing away, without sufferers receiving the support they deserve. We still don’t

know what triggers it or how quickly it will progress in each individual case.

Cranston is a clever guy, and he’s clearly doing everything he can to put himself in the best place to manage his condition. Unfortunately, not everyone is in the same situation – they are frightened, aren’t able to access the best support – emotional as well as therapy wise – and not surprisingly struggle to come to terms with their diagnosis and future.

Ironically Cranston received the support of Robin Williams during his 444 journey. Who knows what made Williams decide to take his own life, but we probably all owe it to the legend to call for more to be done to research Parkinson’s and to dispel some of the stigmas surrounding the condition.

444 Parkinson's Traveler, Marcus Cranston with Robin Williams.

444 Parkinson’s Traveler, Marcus Cranston with Robin Williams.

Find out more at: https://www.facebook.com/444ParkinsonsTraveler

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