“My situation changed 12 years ago”. Up until then Howard was very active. He had moved from the Northern Territory with his family so the four children could go to school in Geelong. He was coaching and umpiring for football games, and working full time as a librarian at CSIRO. Life was busy but good.
He took a month holiday and found on his return, that he was having trouble replying to emails, and moving his left arm at coaching. His doctor referred him to a neurologist who gave him a tablet to take. Howard returned the next day with the good news that it had worked, but this quickly soured when the specialist informed him that this was evidence that he had Parkinson’s disease. Shocked he asked if this affected his life expectancy and was told to “do the things you want now, not later, as your quality of life has a window”.
Rocked by the news, as well as the way in which it had been delivered, Howard found himself at the age of 48, asking ‘What do I do now?’ Libraries rely on electronic materials and communication. He needed his fine motor skills to continue, so he left this position and worked part-time at the Gordon Institute before this opportunity was also removed. It had all happened in such a short time-frame that he found himself asking “What is the point?”
Then, on top of that, his mum passed away and Howard had to manage closing all her affairs. He came across her diaries. “For the last four to five years there was a common entry …’Nobody called, nobody came’. That hit me. I needed to pull myself up and get on with it. I gave myself a talking to, to get on with life. At first my expectation was that, with treatment, I could return to what I was. But once I realised that wasn’t going to happen, I got comfortable with moving forward.”
While Howard continues to manage his medical needs, he also began to manage his community life. While he could not continue to coach, he has stayed in touch with a consultative role supporting younger people learning to be boundary umpires “They are amazing those kids. Really great kids”.
He also joined the Melbourne Parkinson’s Walk in The Park event. “That event triggered me. I could do that. So, I became an ambassador around 2017 for the annual event in Melbourne. This was something I could sink my teeth into. I got together with others and we organised the first Parkinson’s Walk in The Park for Geelong in 2018. We get as many as we can out and walking. Knowing it is coming up motivates you to keep walking. We did a virtual walk in 2020, and we will see what we can do in 2021”.
Howard’s message is simple: “Never give up. There is a way around every problem. Keep going. Keep trying. Keep moving”.
Photo: Phil Hines Photography