July 9th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 27
Parkinson’s sufferer completing transcontinental bike
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Ezra Black Photo
Steve Quam is completing a bicycle ride across the continent to raise funds for the Davis Phinney Foundation, which is an advocacy group for people suffering from Parkinson’s.
Pass Herald Reporter
Riding a 16-year old bicycle and towing a 28-year old trailer once used to transport his infant son, Steve Qum, 68, is completing his third transcontinental bike trip.
And he has Parkinson’s.
“I’m trying to bring a message to people with Parkinson’s that they don’t have to give up on their life dreams,” says Quam. “They may have to make some modifications but they can still live life well.”
The South Carolinian is raising funds for the Davis Phinney Foundation, which was founded in 2004 by Olympic medalist Davis Phinney, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2000 at the age of 40.
The former music therapist was diagnosed with the disease in 2008. Since then, he’s completed two trips across the United States in 2010 and 2012. This time he took a detour into Canada, passing through the Elk Valley and the Crowsnest Pass on his way to Pincher Creek last week.
Quam says Parkinson’s is difficult to diagnose. He visited several specialists who could not give him a diagnosis before being referred to a psychologist and then finally to a neurologist.
“He had me walk down the hall and come back and promptly diagnosed me with Parkinson’s,” says Quam.
According to the Parkinson’s Society of Canada, Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disorder caused by the death of dopamine producing brain cells. Symptoms include tremors, slowness and stiffness, impaired balance and ridged muscles. It is estimated that 10 million people, worldwide, are currently living with the disease.
There is no known cure but research is showing that regular exercise can lessen the symptoms.
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There is a genetic component to the disease. Quam’s father had Parkinson’s, as did his aunt.
Quam says the disease has progressed since his first two rides. One of the symptoms of Parkinson’s is extreme fatigue to the extent that he says he gets worn out walking up his driveway to check the mail.
“I’m towing a pretty heavy trailer, so making it up some of the passes; I’ve had to stop quite often to catch my breath. But if I do things at my own pace it works fine,” he says. “I’m figuring I’ll be on the road until the end of October.”
Quam’s wife is helping him map out his route. He says coming across the Crowsnest Pass is one of the easier ways to make it across the Rockies, which he is relived to have left behind.
Since his last ride, he’s developed a few other disorders, including sleep apnea which is when a persons stops breathing when they sleep. He has a device to treat the apnea but it needs electricity, which is a problem when he needs to camp away from a power outlet.
He also estimates that he burns about 5,000 calories a day but he’s on a medication for which he has to stop eating two hours before he takes it and then another hour after, which cuts into his eating time.
In addition, everyday tasks can be challenging for people suffering from the disease.
“Most folks don’t give a second thought to tying their shoes. I have to think ‘what goes over what? What loops through what?’”
Quam, an accomplished musician, has difficulty playing some of the instruments he had once mastered.
“For 45 years, putting the flute up to my mouth was automatic. I’d do that and a sound would come out and I could play it. A few years ago I put the flute up to my mouth and either no sound came out or a lousy sound would come out,” says Quam. “For a musician to lose their ability to play an instrument is like someone losing an arm or a leg, it’s so much a part of you. It surprisingly didn’t affect my saxophone playing very much.”
Despite these challenges, Quam remains optimistic saying that “life goes on and it can go on well.”
He’s even been able to relearn the flute through work with a music therapist.
More information can be found at www.sqpd.us.
July 9th ~ Vol. 84 No. 27
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