One year ago on the last evening of 2010, the Parker’s Climb Team greeted the arrival of 2011 with a sense of anticipation and excitement as another clock counted down the days until we would climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
I can still recall the feeling that July 2011 would never arrive when we launched our year-long fundraiser in July of 2010. When we rang in 2011 we were still a long way from Tanzania and that big mountain, but it certainly was a vivid reminder that time does not stand still. The day did arrive, and on July 4, 2011, Geoff and I and four members of the Parker family started on a journey of a life time.
We set out to reach the Kibo Summit at 19,340 feet and we did it! All six of us reached our goal on July 10, 2011, which just happened to be Geoff’s 57th birthday. In reality we went well beyond our personal goals as we watched Geoff do this climb more than five years into his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease. In fact, he really aced this climb never wavering for even a second. I will forever remember him taking my hand and leading me to the summit sign when I could barely see it, and struggled for each and every breath. He was breathing with such ease, and smiling endlessly, and still talking as if he was just taking a casual stroll. Amazing – really incredible!
My family members found strength also in seizing my goal as they graciously set aside a year of their lives to help educate people while raising awareness and funding for Parkinson’s disease research to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation. I can never repay them for their continual encouragement before, during and after our climb. Over the course of this year, we all got so much more than we ever dreamed possible from our quest. It is a feeling of accomplishment that I am convinced will last a life time – no matter what other challenges life has to offer.
Geoffrey and I have long believed (as I witness almost daily) that the effects of Parkinson’s disease can be slowed when one adopts an exercise regimen to keep all the parts moving with more ease and control. Geoff continues to do well, and his tenacity to remain fit serves as encouragement for me to try to adopt a healthy lifestyle as well. When I receive emails even today from people who have found the strength to start exercising because of Geoff’s story, I realize that Parker’s Climb has touched lives of people that I have not even met; this was one of our primary goals, and I am grateful!
2011 was a challenging year for many of my friends. Our wish is that 2012 will be a more kind and gentle year. Geoff and I, in the spirit of adventure have made a lot of changes in our lives over this year. We decided not to let the moss grow beneath our feet and made a significant move – life really is a bit of a blank canvas as we stand with brushes in hand ready to paint the future. There is something exciting when you are creating a bit of mystery in life! Right?
When I reflect back on the past year, I recognize that my strength comes from the love and encouragement that I received from friends and family. When I learned that my Mom had an illness that even I could not fix, I wondered how I would survive. If not for the love and kindness from friends (and you all know who you are), I might still be searching for my voice. One day by the grace of God I realized I needed to become an advocate against her disorder rather than a victim. Then it all seemed to make more sense.
Life really is like climbing a mountain – some events feel like bunny hills and some take every ounce of stamnia that we have; but in the end the world looks quite different looking from the top down. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro left me with a feeling that I can do anything if I work hard enough to get there.
Geoff and I lost a dear friend this year when Wayne was called to live with the angels quite unexpectably in September. There are many days that I still wait for that call to hear him say “did you miss me?” He has no idea how much we miss him, and ringing in the New Year without him, as we had in the past just didn’t feel right. Our lives were more rich because of knowing you Wayne.
On this first day of the New Year, I count my blessings for the many people we met over our year long fundraiser. We have so much work left to do in finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Parker’s Climb will live on well beyond Mt. Kilimanjao! Yes that majestic mountain was just fuel under our feet and 2012 promises more work and dedication from Team Parker!
Happy New Year from the entire Parker’s Climb family! For those of you who followed our climb in 2011, and those of you who donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation on our behalf, I carried you in my heart up that mountain. It was your words that played over and over in my head on that long journey, and that continue to inspire me today.
May the scientist and researchers continue their good works to find our cures – may the millions of caregivers across the world find strength to make it through each day, and for those who have already been diagnosed with these unrelenting brain disorders, – We will continue to educate and fight these battles until the end. We will not stop – we cannot stop for there is much left to do in this fight.
Happy New Year and Much Love!
Geoff & Pam / George & Larri / George IV & Maddie