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Parkinson's diagnosis a call to action

Wednesday August 14, 2013

City man fights illness with exercise push
Kyle Jahns

Winnepeg Free Press - Exercising is sometimes the last thought on your mind after a long day.

Tim Hague knows the feeling, and while it would be easy to give in and relax, he doesn't. His quality of life depends on it.

Hague was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease three years ago. Before he was diagnosed, Hague was a runner, a cyclist and a triathlete. He feared his neurologist, Dr. Andrew Borys, would tell him he needed to stop physical activity.

"He told me the opposite," Hague said. "He said if there's any one thing I can convince people like you to do, it's to be as active as you possibly can. Become a fanatic about your sport and do everything you possibly can."

Physicians at the Movement Disorder Clinic in Winnipeg believe moderate exercise slows down the progression of the neurological disease. Hague is spreading that message to others through his own actions, hoping the 6,000 people in Manitoba with Parkinson's will work at slowing down the disease.

"It freaks you out, right? It's a big deal. Without a cure, Parkinson's is progressive. It will get worse and you will lose function," Hague said. "I knew that going in so it was a big deal. It scared the crap out of me, quite frankly."

Hague is now up at 5 a.m. going through his workout and stretch routine before cycling to work as a registered nurse at the St. Boniface Hospital. While some days are harder to get motivated than others, Hague believes everyone with the disease should be aware of what moderate exercise can do for them.

"After you're done all the stuff you need to do in life, the last thing you generally feel like doing is something that's good for you. But you have to," he said.

Before getting involved in an exercise program, Hague suggests seeing a physician first to figure out an appropriate plan. Hague, who is 48 and has been running and cycling for 20 years, has a different workout plan compared with others.

"That's why it's very important not to compare ourselves to each other. They call Parkinson's the designer disease because it affects everybody differently," he said.

Parkinson's is the second-most-common neurological disease (after Alzheimer's) and while the majority of patients are older, there is an increasing rate of young-onset
Parkinson's among people between the ages of 21 and 40. The Parkinson Society Manitoba has created a group for younger people with the disease. The members relate and encourage each other as they work at balancing family, kids, careers and managing the disease all at once.

There will be a Parkinson SuperWalk on Sept. 7. The national event raises millions of dollars every year for Parkinson's research.

Hague's face might be a familiar one. He and his son Tim Hague Jr. are on The Amazing Race Canada. Hague has been able to tell his story of dealing with the disease to a national audience in hopes of encouraging others to manage through it.

"What I hope people will take away from The Amazing Race is that I'm doing what I can do, and if I can do this, there's something they can do," Hague said. "They don't have to go out and run an amazing race, they don't have to compare themselves to what I'm doing. But we can always do more than what we think we can."