We’ve all heard those adages about the simple act of dropping a small stone or pebble into a lake causing ripples far and wide. There’s another one about a butterfly flapping its wings in the forest. Basically, they say that each interaction that you have with everything changes it irrevocably. It’s forever changed, even if it’s an infinitesimally small way. The act that you have touched or interacted with whatever ‘it’ is, for however brief a time, creates a connection, and with it a change. It’s a strong belief in Maori culture in New Zealand where I live. I didn’t believe it. Until I met Alex.
What do I know of Alex Flynn? Precious little if I’m honest. I even ponder if I have ‘the right’ to write these words and put his name in them. He’s from the UK and diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2008 at the age of 36. A campaigner on a mammoth scale, he travelled across the US on foot, bike and kayak. He had completed an ultra-marathon in the Sahara desert and a 279 mile expedition in the Swedish Arctic. Truly determined, dedicated and a fighter in every sense of the word.
I became aware of Alex in March 2021. He emailed me after I responded to a request from an acquaintance about doing something positive for World Parkinson’s Day that year. He sent me an email on 3rd March. I replied. We agreed to talk on 17th March 2021 and we had a long conversation. It covered all kinds of things. Some I remember, some I forget, yet Alex’s passion, strength and kindness were clear, as was frustration and something we shared; the desire to rid ourselves and the world of Parkinson’s.
I spoke to Alex for over half an hour. I wept as I told him of my own frustrations, and we spoke of the importance of exercise. He stressed to me his firm belief in the power of cycling and that doing it daily could vastly improve the person with Parkinson’s quality of life. We talked about his Keep Moving campaign, and on the subject of exercise he told me “Don’t stop, never stop.” He said if I ever needed to talk he was there and I could call him. I was immensely grateful. It was wonderful to talk to someone that understood. I later told my friend who is also afflicted, Emma (Kyriacou), how driven and focussed he was, yet still approachable and kind.
His words have stayed with me. I ride my bike around the area I live. Be it for an early morning / late in the day ride for the sake of it, or to and from the gym. Whenever I feel that it’s all too much, too difficult, not worth the effort, I’m too impaired, I think of Alex. It’s fleeting, it’s just a flash across my mind, but it’s there.
Then last year, on 17th December, I read that Parkinson’s campaigner Alex Flynn had been in Nepal raising awareness of Parkinson’s. He was about to embark on another adventure when he suddenly and unexpectedly he passed away. His death was unrelated to Parkinson’s.
I was shocked. I was sad. I found myself feeling a little numb. Yet why? I barely knew him, we’d had two phone calls. How was it I felt that I’d been hit by a truck? I hesitated, then wrote a message on the Facebook page that told of his passing. I wondered if I’d done the right thing. But in some small way I felt I needed to tell those left behind how he had affected me. Then it came to me. Alex represented my own determination to overcome the insurmountable. We’re constantly told “we can’t, we must not, we will get worse, we will be limited”, yet Alex fought back and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that we absolutely can still achieve. We can still improve. We can prevail in spite of Parkinson’s.
I myself have been contacted by some people that read my blog. They have told me that it has helped them. They feel better about themselves, less alone, that despite their trials and tribulations life has a purpose and meaning. They don’t need to be afflicted with Parkinson’s, there are still positive messages to take away. I am beyond delighted to discover that people are reading, and enjoying the words I write. Better still, the words are helping them.
It is a great comfort to know this blog is in some way a help to some. I might not know who is out there, but they are out there, reading. If I can help them feel better about their position, regardless of their aliment or issue, isn’t that the point? I don’t care if you have Parkinson’s, know someone sick or simply have your interest piqued by the site and have just stopped by. If I can offer something positive, some ray of hope, a sliver of a promise of better things, I will continue.
The ripples in the lake spread far and wide. I wish I could have been able to let Alex Flynn know how much he helped me in those few brief moments we shared back in March 2021. He will never know how much he encouraged me to keep moving. Through my writing, I hope that I too help those in need, those that need to know they are important and they have to keep fighting. I like to say we are stronger together. In the words of Alex Flynn, “Don’t stop. Never stop.”
I would like to pass on my most grateful thanks to Alex’s family for allowing me to write this post.
Until next time,
If you would like to find out more about Alex Flynn and his fundraising charity in the UK check out the link below:
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