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Image / Self / Real-life Stories

‘I had always wanted to do a parachute jump, so for my 65th birthday, I did it’


By Maura Ward
10th Aug 2023
‘I had always wanted to do a parachute jump, so for my 65th birthday, I did it’

Irish woman Maura Ward was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease back in 2011. Turning to exercise as a means to help her manage her symptoms, it’s been a tough journey to get to where she is now, but 12 years later and her fighting spirit has only gotten stronger. Soon to tackle a 100km cycle across Jordan in aid of Parkinson’s research, here she tells us more about her story.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease just over 10 years ago. It was quite a shock, to put it mildly, but I did eventually come to terms with it. I quickly learned that physical exercise helped enormously, although it is not something I particularly enjoy.

I was determined to do my best to raise funds for research into Parkinson’s because as of yet, there is no cure and treatment hasn’t changed much over the years. 

I had always wanted to do a parachute jump, so for my 65th birthday, I did it – with sponsorship, and raised funds for Parkinson’s research. 

I also had a desire to travel and managed to do quite a bit of that in the interim. I often tagged along with my son, Johnny, who incidentally has visited every country in the world.  As I approached my 70th birthday, I mentioned to him that I would like to do something to celebrate and raise some more money.  As a result, I somehow ended up joining a group of wonderful people climbing Mt Fuji in Japan – all of us raising money for Parkinson’s!  The whole thing was organised by Johnny. 

Maura and Johnny in Tanzania  

Carried away by the success of the adventure to Japan, he organised another fundraising escapade as soon as travel was possible after Covid.  We ended up in Tanzania, at the Serengeti Marathon!  I managed 10km which resulted in more funds raised for Parkinson’s research!

That was two years ago but unfortunately, nothing has happened since then. I’ve been struggling with an arthritic hip which has impacted hugely on my ability to exercise and, in turn, has had a negative effect on my Parkinson’s symptoms.  However, just before Christmas last year, I had a successful hip replacement in Thailand where my son lives.

Admittedly, I have struggled with all kinds of illnesses in the intervening period, but have been coerced, cajoled or persuaded again by my son to do another fundraiser.  The decider for me was getting to visit a country which has long been on my bucket list… Jordan.  My son has made all the arrangements and in just under two months’ time, we are doing a 100km cycle from Petra to Wadi Rum.

Training has been very difficult because I have been quite unwell, but I’m hoping I’ll be on the back end of a tandem.  No doubt it will be tough, but hopefully, we will raise lots of money for Parkinson’s research.

What advice would I give other people living with Parkinson’s? That’s a difficult one. Obviously, exercise helps, but it’s the mental battle that has to be won. Initially, I rolled with it and recognised that, in a way, I was grieving for a way of life I wouldn’t have… but I quickly gave myself the necessary kick up the behind and decided to fight the enemy on every front.  And that has worked for me so far.

I’ve learned so much about myself on this journey. I’ve learned that I will never enjoy the exercise I have to do! I’ve learned not to judge others because none of us knows what’s happening in anyone else’s life. And I’ve learned that most people are inherently good and well-meaning. 

Together with 20 other heroes, Maura and her son, Johnny, will attempt to cycle 100km from Petra, in Jordan, to Wadi Rum this October. 100km will be a serious challenge for the group, so they’ll be doing it over 2 days – covering roughly 50km per day. Some of the group will run, some of the group will cycle individually; Maura and Johnny will tackle the journey on a tandem bike. 

Aiming to raise £10,000 for Parkinson’s research, you can support Maura’s campaign by donating to her fundraiser here.

Imagery courtesy of Maura Ward.