A Volunteer's Story

Domhnall Egan tells us about himself and his involvement with Dublin Cycling Campaign

When I first found out I had Parkinson’s I was 37 years old and had just got engaged to be married a week earlier. Now I am 41 years old, married and have an 8 week old daughter, Tara.

It is difficult to explain Parkinson’s to someone unfamiliar with the condition as they can only see the external symptoms such as tremor and stiffness. What they don’t see is the mental impact, the emotional strain and the physical challenges that surviving and coping with a condition that changes daily brings. The best way to explain Parkinson’s is that is robs you of your sense of self and, depending on the severity of the medication prescribed and your own reaction to it, you can feel like a bystander in your own life. A lot of trial and error takes place in getting the correct type and dose of medication so that symptoms are mitigated enough that you can live a reasonably balanced, functioning and happy life.

Medication is only a small part of living with Parkinson’s and the key to long term survival is a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a high level of fitness. Regular high-cadence cycling has been shown to have a positive effect on slowing down the progression of the condition as well as having a positive effect on your mental health. The non-motor symptoms, or what people can’t see, can be very debilitating in a way that isn’t always obvious. One of the aspects I struggle with daily is the effect it has on my ability to recall and argue a point succinctly. I often struggle to find the correct word; I can feel it and see it but just can’t reach up the shelf and say the word, it is beyond frustrating.

Through my involvement in the Dublin Cycling Campaign as a committee member and particularly working on the creation of a new strategy for the organization I have developed new techniques and learned to work collaboratively with a whole myriad of personalities I wouldn’t normally have contact with. I gradually got my confidence back as I wasn’t judged because of my condition, people didn’t focus on what I couldn’t do and my contributions were given the same thought and consideration as everyone else. As a result I am now able to find the word I want quicker and am much improved at articulation than I was a year ago.

It is difficult to put into words the feeling you get when you see even the genesis of your ideas take shape and become a reality or by providing support and encouragement to someone you witness them them believe in themselves and achieve something they didn’t think possible. There is a whole different feeling you get from volunteering your time selflessly. I would encourage people to volunteer if they can, and if not with Dublin Cycling Campaign then with a cause that is close to their heart as you get more out than you put in.

If you want to know more about Parkinson’s checkout the Parkinson Association of Ireland (PAI) or lookup PAI on Facebook & Twitter. I am participating in https://www.waar.ie/ on Saturday 12th May, a multiple discipline adventure race across different terrains, the majority of which involves cycling, to raise money and awareness for Young Parkinson’s Ireland (YPI) a branch of PAI who cater for people under 55 years old who have been diagnosed and offer help & support of which I am a committee member. If you would like to support please visit my fundraising page http://idonate.ie/domhnallegan to donate.

As a final reflection if you are faced with a life-altering challenge focus on what you can do, start from there, and you might find out you can achieve more than you ever thought possible!

Domhnall Egan has been an active volunteer with Dublin Cycling Campaign since 2016 and has been involved in a number of long and short term projects since then. The Cycling Campaign is engaged in multiple projects at different scales, with a focus on cycling infrastructure, public policy, and the promotion of cycling. If you are passionate about cycling, please consider getting involved with us on whatever level is comfortable for you.

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Friday, 6 April 2018 (All day)

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