Andy McDowell was diagnosed with early onset Parkinsons Disease in December, 2009, aged 43.
He wrote the poem "Smaller" for his children - to help them understand what was happening to him. The defining message being that whilst Parkinson's has forever changed him - and the body he inhabits - he's still his own man.
He lives in Auckland New Zealand with his wife Kate and their 2 children, Lily and Pearl, and runs a marketing consultancy.
Parkinson’s is a degenerative, neurological disorder with no known cure. It is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease and affects four to six million people worldwide.
In Parkinson’s, reduced dopamine levels in the brain lead to both movement-related symptoms such as tremor, rigidity and slowing down or freezing and emotional life. Indeed many people suffer from depression as they deal with - what Auckland neurologist Barry Snow calls - “a very tough disease”.
The lack of dopamine affects both physical movement and cognitive and behavioural symptoms are often observed later.
One of the idiosyncrasies’ of PD is no two people have the same combination of the motor symptoms (tremor, facial masking, slurred speech etc.) or the many non-motor symptoms (fatigue, pain, depression, cognition, memory, motivation etc).
The effectiveness of current treatments, which focus on dopamine replacement, decline as the disease progresses. Moreover, current treatments are symptomatic and do not reverse or slow the degeneration of the brain.