Sarah McDonald rode from Sydney to Melbourne in an effort to raise money for the disease her Dad suffers from. Here is her inspirational story.

“On the 9th of January myself and a dedicated group of friends began an epic 1400km journey peddling from the Sydney Opera House towards our final destination, Federation Square in Melbourne.

Although it might sound insane, we were in it for a good cause – setting out to raise awareness about and money for the Parkinson’s disease support organisation Parkinson’s Australia. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease six years ago and ever since then I have been determined to do everything in my power to help support him and others in a similar situation.

The ride itself took 11 days of cycling for up to 160kms a day (including two very much needed rest days). Each evening we would set up camp and while I blogged on the happenings of that day the boys would test their culinary and cleaning skills, never ceasing to amaze me!

Over the course of the ride myself, Jimmy Green, Warwick Cann and Sri Harsha Puthi would travel from stop to stop meeting with Parkinson’s support groups along the way. We met some truly inspirational people including Dennis Smith who has used the symptoms of his disease as a medium for his poetry and innovative photograph techniques. We had a great yarn with Dennis and couldn’t have been more grateful for his support. Dennis also introduced us to his good friend Bob McDonald who is the master of the Bega golf course and never lets anything, even Parkinson’s, get in the way of his daily golfing ritual.

There is something about being thrown into a situation with a group of people with whom you eat, sleep and spend every waking moment with for an extended period. The ride gave new meaning to the concept of ‘testing a friendship’ as we pushed ourselves to exhaustion between the cycling, late nights, 4am starts and thermo-rests. It’s safe to say that each of us discovered a new limit and while we all had our moments, at the end of the day we formed much closer friendships as a result of the experience!

Up against a seemingly in surmountable challenge, everything went smoothly, until day 10 when I crashed on the first leg of the day. Thanks to the speedy response and expertise of the boys an ambulance quickly arrived to scrape me up off the icy gravel and ship me to Bairnsdale Hospital faster than I could imagine.

The doctors later delivered the bad news that I had sustained four fractured ribs and displaced my collar bone. I was devastated. I willed myself to get better and even tried to get back on the bike – but my body just wouldn’t physically let me. I can’t explain how frustrating it was to be relegated to the support vehicle.

Suddenly, I had a whole new insight into how my dad must feel every day. One of the effects of Parkinson’s disease is problems with mobility; even the most simple tasks can take ages. I think learning to live with a lack of control over your body must take incredible mental strength.

Luckily for me, our support driver, Sri, always had an interest in taking on road cycling. He has been mountain biking for years but had never really made the transition. Deciding to seize this opportunity, he agreed to ride the remaining legs with Jimmy and Warwick while I took on the duties of the support car.

Although I couldn’t ride, I was determined to finish the last day on a high note. So, I drove into Melbourne early, parked the car and ran out to meet the cyclists. From here we all entered Federation Square in a precession, myself running and others riding along side to be greeted by the cheers of the local Parkinson’s support group members.

Even with my slight mishap the ride was well and truly a massive success! We raised thousands of dollars, gained the support and encouragement from a number of communities and raised awareness about Parkinson’s and the facilities available to those living with the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive and incurable disease with substantial disability. It is one of the most common neurological conditions in Australia, second only to dementia.

Parkinson’s disease presents many physical and psychological challenges to those affected by the disease and their families, including financial and economic costs. Symptoms include tremors, rigidity, depression and hallucinations.”

For more information on Parkinson’s, visit www.parkinsons.org.au

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