Sukhi Rai’s problems began with a slight pain in his left ankle.
Rai, a Victoria resident, was an avid runner, often running as much as 32 kilometres a week, in preparation for several 10 and 15 km races.
However, during his training runs, his toes would cramp up in his shoe and he felt like he had no control over his entire left leg from his hip down to his ankle.
After his ankle began dragging, Rai went to a number of physiotherapists and sports doctors, who were unable to find out what was wrong with him.
However, between 2005 and 2010, his physical health began to deteriorate. Rai found it increasingly difficult to do small tasks, such as tying a tie. Multi-tasking became difficult, his writing got smaller and closer together and his speech became more shallow.
In one incident, Rai, who worked as a financial advisor, was told by his manager that a client complained he moved too much during a meeting. That was his first indication that this was more than a running injury or physical problem.
After being referred to a neurologist, Rai was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects one’s movement.
“I knew something was wrong. It was a relief that it wasn’t just something that was in my head,” said the now 56-year-old. “It was more relief than shock.”
At the time of the diagnosis, Rai admits he didn’t know much about the disease, other than the fact that Canadian actor Michael J. Fox suffered from it.
His first contact was with Headway, a local epilepsy and Parkinson’s centre, which helped him come to grips with his disease. Then he received help from Parkinson Society B.C., a non-profit organization that provides services and programs for people battling the disease, attending symposiums featuring people suffering from the disease, and joining support and exercise groups.
Since being diagnosed five years ago, he hasn’t let the disease slow him down.
Three times a week, Rai attends an exercise group that specializes in exercises for people with Parkinson’s. He also continues to dance, something he enjoys doing with his wife.
“It doesn’t mean we have to be shut in, it just means we have to pace ourselves, that you only have so much energy to give in a day,” said Rai, adding he’s had to re-adjust to the fast-paced world of computers and technology.
“I’m still able to read. If I can’t read as fast, I listen to podcasts or the radio. It’s about making adjustments.”
Rai is one of dozens of participants who will be participating in the second annual Parkinson SuperWalk in Esquimalt this weekend.
The province-wide walk is a fundraiser for Parkinson Society B.C. and helps raise awareness of the disease. Last year’s local walk drew around 100 people and helped raise roughly $20,000 to go towards programs and services for people with Parkinson’s.
“It’s a chance for celebrating lives being well-lived with the disease,” said Parkinson Society B.C. CEO Jean Blake, adding this is the society’s largest fundraiser of the year. “It’s a way for people to come together and show that we can fight back against this disease.”
The two-kilometre Parkinson SuperWalk takes place on Saturday, Sept. 10 around Esquimalt Gorge Park. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the walk begins at 10 a.m.
According to Blake, there were approximately 800 people in Greater Victoria living with the disease, and 2,559 people on Vancouver Island in 2013.