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Patient Stories

Cross-Country Trek Raises Awareness About Parkinson’s

Bill's 2,694-Mile Journey

Bill Bucklew can’t run well anymore, but he can still walk. Determined to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease, Bill walked more than 2,694 miles across America in 67 days, raising funds and awareness along the way.

The Wilmette resident was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease in 2012 at age 43. His symptoms make it painful to move, but he continues to walk because the exercise helps him to manage his Parkinson’s disease.

During his epic journey, Bill walked the equivalent of one and a half marathons every day. His cross-country trek started in Tybee Island, Georgia, and took him over mountaintops and through deserts. He braved severe weather, including a snowstorm in Mississippi, 50-miles-per-hour dust storm in New Mexico and torrential downpour in Texas. He also tested his navigation and people skills to work around Mississippi's closed Vicksburg Bridge over the Mississippi River.

By the time he plunged into the Pacific Ocean in Imperial Beach, California, to complete his journey, Bill had raised more than $100,000 for Team Fox, part of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research.

Besides raising awareness, Bill hopes to inspire people with Parkinson’s disease to exercise.

“Being active has really helped me tremendously to slow the progression of my symptoms,” said Bucklew. “I’m hoping this walk will motivate others dealing with Parkinson’s disease to get up and move even if it’s walking around the block.”

Bucklew’s physician agrees vigorous exercise is an important component for combating the disease.

"We found that people with Parkinson’s disease who maintain high-intensity exercise three times a week were more likely to have slower progression of the disease,” said Tanya Simuni, MD, director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

If you or someone you love is living with Parkinson’s disease, you don’t have to work out like a marathon athlete to reap the benefits of exercise. In fact, research shows that people with Parkinson’s disease who exercised a minimum of two and a half hours a week experience a slower decline in quality of life.

Here are a few ways to add exercise into your daily routine:

No equipment needed

As demonstrated by Bill’s journey, walking is a great form of exercise. Stretching and dancing are other forms of exercise that don’t require any special equipment, and help to maintain balance and flexibility.

Medical fitness programs

Look for exercise classes designed for people with Parkinson’s disease. The classes focus on low-intensity physical strength-building and utilize a variety of equipment to build strength and increase mobility. Choose from TRX, cycling and more.

Share experiences

Support groups provide a forum to meet other people, gain emotional understanding and talk about your experiences. 

Tatyana Simuni, MD
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