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NICHOLAS MERCER: Ontario man wants those with Parkinson's Disease to keep moving

Walter and Regula Reich began their cross-country expedition in British Columbia and have finally found themselves on the East coast.
Walter and Regula Reich began their cross-country expedition in British Columbia and have finally found themselves on the East coast. - Theo Giesen

Walter Reich has never been one to back down from a challenge. 

The 72-year-old Magnetawon, Ontario native has always been keen to push his limits and discover pieces of himself along the way. 

It's part of the reason Reich was in Newfoundland and Labrador recently. 

Accompanied by his wife Regula and a small support team, Reich left British Columbia in April bound for St. John’s on a fundraising tour. It was on April 12, the same day Terry Fox left St. John’s on his journey. 

Originally, the trip was supposed to be a cross-country RV trip, but Reich got to B.C. and decided why not turn it into a bike ride instead. 

He wanted to ride for a cause and help raise some funds for a group. Regula had family members who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and Reich decided that would be the way to go. 

“I’ve met a few Parkinson’s groups along the way and I want to show them support,” he said, minutes after arriving in Gander on Sept. 30. "I’m trying to help in any way I can.” 

His campaign is called walterandgiant — referring to the Giant bicycle he has pedaled from British Columbia — and his goal is to raise $20,000 and disburse it to the groups he met along the way. 

Right now, he has raised some $4,000. 

My mother was recently diagnosed with an early form of Parkinson’s Disease.

I was making my first trip home from Corner Brook, where I was living at the time, since being told her diagnosis. 

I wasn't prepared for the constant shaking of her right hand.

She was in good spirits and resigned herself to treating the disease as best she could. There is no beating Parkinson’s at the moment. 

My mother was still herself. She still had a love for a baked good after a meal, still worried about the kilometres I was putting on my car, and still an avid Canadian Football League fantasy player. 

She didn’t ditch the Montreal Canadiens in the wake of her diagnosis, but there's always hope, I guess. 

Still over the first trip home, her hand didn’t stop shaking and it pulled at my attention. 

The disease was in my kitchen, and it was going to take some big adjustments going forward.

The most I knew about Parkinson’s at the time was that Muhammed Ali and Michael J. Fox had both developed it. 

That was it. 

I didn’t know it was a neurological disease that affected the body’s motor functions. I had no idea the exact cause of Parkinson’s is unknown and genetics is believed to play a part. 

This isn’t about me. It never was.  

If mom was fine, then I was going to be fine.

Still, it's been an adjustment to fix the image that conjures in your head. 

The only image I had of the disease was a shaking Ali being carted around in a wheelchair with a distant look in his eye. 

I didn’t want that for her. Even though it may never get to that point, the thought of it happening was enough to keep me up at night. 

I won’t say mom has embraced having the disease but I can say she has taken an active role controlling it. 

She’s taking medication, moving more and allowing time where her mind isn’t thinking about the shakes — known as tremors — that come
when she is stressed. 

She took the stance of worrying about what she could control, and developing Parkinson’s was out of her hands. 

What was controllable is how she addressed it. 

It's the same message Reich wants people to take from his bike ride. 

Just keep moving. 

There were times he wanted to quit. When April’s biting western Canada winds whipped at his face and made it feel like he was riding up a mountain every day, Reich almost packed it in. 

On those days, he might take a break in the motorhome. When the winds died down, he’d head to where he left off and start again. No kilometre left behind, so to speak. 

Just as he kept moving on his journey, he wants others to do the same. 

He wants people to stay active as a way to try and beat the disease. Keep going and keep pushing for a cure. 

Mom kept moving forward and we couldn’t be more proud.

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