Don’t Walk Backwards (Unless You Need To) By Drew Heighway

Drew almost half wayI grew up in Canada and was gifted in whatever sport I decided to participate in. Football – recruited by a top University. Hockey – played with a number of buddies who went on to the NHL.  Indoor Lacrosse – National Champions in 1978.  Switched gears to Triathlons in the late ‘80’s where I was putting up 2:11’s in Olympic Distance Tri’s.  I kicked butt in everything I touched.  I was the Man! Then, in 1998 while out for a run on the west side of Manhattan I cramped up so bad I could barely get back to my apartment.  A couple of weeks later I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD).

Now what do I do?  I didn’t dare tell my co-workers in New York. I avoided my friends back in Canada. What choice did I have?  Remember, I was the guy everyone looked up to.  So I made the only decision anyone in my shoes would have made.  My illness would remain a secret.

However, you can only cover-up the symptoms of Parkinson’s for so long before people start asking questions. I milked the “ankle injury” excuse for a long while.  I came up with weak reasons why I couldn’t play hockey anymore.  It got to a point where my buddies all but gave up on me.

The shell I built around me had to be broken so I told a good friend about my situation was.  The response?  “That sucks. Deal with it and move on.“ That was the wakeup call I needed. Now I’m focused on helping individuals with Parkinson’s “Deal with it.”  The awareness of the disease is so important and my portfolio of friends with PD is growing rapidly!

Drew&Jamie at the topMy son, Jamie and his friends created Bikes Battle Parkinsons  (BBP) – in order to raise money on behalf of The Michael J Fox Foundation.  The group is four years old and we have brought in over $75,000 in donations so far. We rode 680 miles around Lake Ontario in 5 days. Toronto to New York in 5 days.  Montreal to Boston in 4 days. This past October Jamie and I rode the Swiss Alps with friends from Credit Suisse Group. Nearly 20 miles riding up the Klausen Pass mountain range. What a great experience!  This coming June members of BBP – myself included – will participate in the Mont Tremblant 70.3 Half Ironman.  Awareness!  Plain and Simple.

Allow me to shift back to the title “Don’t walk backwards, unless you Drew and Jamie bikesneed to.”  Focus on what’s in front of you and do whatever it takes in order to make a difference.  Be a positive influence!

And if you have PD and you struggle with your gate, try walking backwards.  It really works!!!


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