Oldham man stars in new Parkinson's campaign
Reporter: Jess Reeves
Date published: 16 April 2019
An Oldham man has been chosen to star in a new awareness campaign that aims to shatter public misconceptions about Parkinson’s.
The Parkinson’s Is campaign has been launched by charity Parkinson’s UK in response to frustrations from those with the condition that low understanding of its symptoms means it’s wrongly perceived as “just the shakes”.
Shaun Slicker, 33, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009. It is a serious and progressive neurological condition with more than 40 symptoms that affects people of all ages and currently there is no cure.
Shaun is now one of just four people with Parkinson’s in the UK to star in a moving online film for the campaign where they share their experience of living with the condition. The film has already been viewed more than 64 thousand times on twitter alone.
Within the film Shaun opens up about his depression and hopes sharing his experience will make a difference.
Shaun Slicker said, “I was only 20-years-old when I first noticed something wasn’t right. I had a tremor in my left arm and foot. I was a caretaker at a school, and I played rugby, so I really didn’t think much of it.
I then started to limp at work, but I thought I’d maybe just sprained it. I went to the GP who didn’t think there was anything seriously wrong. But as time went on it got worse and worse.
Eventually it was my podiatrist that noticed the shaking and they referred me to a neurologist. It took three years of tests and being passed from pillar to post, but I eventually got diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009, when I was 23.
At first it was a relief, because after three years of waiting I finally had an explanation. My Great Uncle had Parkinson’s, so I did know a bit about it. And in 2011, my sister Kirstie was also diagnosed when she was 29.”
The wider Parkinson’s Is campaign sees people right across the UK share how the condition affects them to help fight negative attitudes and correct misconceptions about this much misunderstood condition online and in the media.
According to recent research from Parkinson’s UK, 8 in 10 people with Parkinson’s believe that awareness and understanding is low because people don’t consider it to be a serious condition - and only associate it with one symptom - a tremor.
Shaun continues, “People see the physical side of Parkinson’s, like the tremors, but they don’t understand the day-to-day difficulties and the mental side of things just gets forgotten about. I can’t work and Parkinson’s does limit the things I can do. It’s difficult to plan and I have to fit everything around taking my medication.
Two things that have really helped me through are tattoos and the gym. At one point I wasn’t on any medication for 18 months and I had difficulties walking. Getting tattoos forced me out the house and got me out of my depression. It’s become my therapy – I’m now 80% covered. It’s even led to some tattoo modelling!
The gym has also been a place where I can forget my worries. It’s a positive thing for me to do and really helps my symptoms. I can sometimes get aches and I have to shuffle around – the gym warms me up and keeps me mobile. I was previously 24 stone and very unfit. I’ve now lost 11 stone and health and nutrition is so important to me.
People are quite naïve about what Parkinson’s actually is, some even think you can catch it! So that’s one of the reasons I speak out about it. There needs to be much more understanding about what it is and how it affects people – both inside and out. It’s not just tremors, there is so much more. We all get different symptoms and are on different medication.
It’s also not just something that elderly people get, as my case shows. When I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t find anyone who was around my age, but now that I’ve spoken out, more young people have also spoken out about their own experiences.”
Steve Ford, Parkinson’s UK’s CEO, said, “It’s vital that people like Shaun talk openly about their experiences and share how the condition affects them. We hope their involvement in the film will help people understand far more about this complex condition.
Despite the fact that Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative condition after Alzheimer’s, many people still don’t understand what Parkinson’s is or how it affects people.
We hope our new Parkinson’s Is campaign which sees people across the UK share how the condition affects their lives will raise awareness and help correct public misconceptions about this much misunderstood condition.”
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