Liz, 48, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2014, 5 weeks before her 44th birthday. Since then Liz has been raising awareness to try and show people that a diagnosis doesn’t mean the end of your life. Liz has always been a keen runner and has completed many marathons in her time. She has also taken up paddle boarding and competes in Canicross, Bikejor and dog triathlon events.
Why do you want to row an ocean?
Well to be fair, if you’d asked me 6 months ago, I’d have probably said “why would anyone want to do something like that?” or “Do people actually do things like that?”, but 6 months on and 2 months into training and being part of this adventure, it’s all I can think about and I can’t think of a better way to raise awareness of Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease.
Already awareness has been raised where I live, the whole village are getting involved, including people I didn’t even know before this challenge. So I want to do it for myself, but also for all the people, family and friends who are supporting me.
Have you taken part in a big adventure before?
Compared to this adventure, the answer would have to be no, but as far as I’m concerned, life has been a big adventure to me, especially since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
I’ve done things that perhaps most people wouldn’t class as a big adventure, but to me have been something I would never have even considered before diagnosis. I’ve done parapenting in the alps, ridden the longest zip wire in Europe, competed in dog triathlons, canicross races all over the country, and taken up paddle boarding with my dog, which if you know how bad my balance and coordination is, has been no mean feat…
What are you most looking forward to about rowing?
Having never rowed before I’ve had to start from scratch, which is hard, learning a new skill at 48 is difficult enough, without having a condition that means repetitive movement is difficult in normal life, and then throwing in Parkinsons. Its made for a lot of blisters and most importantly lots of laughs !
So I’m looking forward to putting what I’ve learnt into practise rowing the Atlantic, as I love seeing a plan come together, also the fact that once we get out there there’s nothing else to think about, but rowing, will be lovely, as at the moment life is getting in the way, as I’d like to have more time on the water.
Also the complete tranquility of nothing, just us the ocean and the wildlife….
What do you think the biggest challenges will be?
To be honest I dont really think of the challenges, because I often think that if I do I might talk myself out of things.
But if I have to its most probably the food situation, I love my food and its one of the first things I think about when I get up, what’s for Breakfast, lunch and dinner. So eating freeze dried food is not something I relish.
What 3 strengths do you think you will bring to the crew?
Positivity – I don’t often think any other way other than the positive side of everything, no point otherwise.
Determination to succeed – I like to do the best that I can and be the best prepared that I can, which then means I usually do succeed.
My ability to sing Hymns…I’ll just leave that one out there!
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My Mum, my Dad died after a horrible long drawn out illness when she was 58, and 6 weeks after my sisters husband left her with 3 young children and she stepped in to look after them and my sister when they needed her, putting her grief on hold to support them both mentally, physically and financially.
This may seem like something that a lot of people go through, but until then my Mum had lived the ideal life, my Dad had sheltered her and looked after her all their lives, and they’d always done everything together and were very much in love after being together all their adult lives
Twenty years on she’s still the rock of the family who we all go to when we need anything, even telling her about this great adventure, she took it all in her stride and wasn’t phased, even though secretly she’d like us all to just stay at home everyday so as we’d all be safe.
Celebrity wise, inspirationally its got to be Michael J Fox, for very obvious reasons.
What advice would you give to your 10 year old self?
I think the only advice I would say, is never regret anything you do or have done as it helps make you who you become.
Go and grab life by the balls and live it.
I wouldn’t change how I’ve lived my life, the mistakes and dramas have made me who I am today.
Aside from friends and family, what do you think you will miss most while you’re at sea?
This is an easy one, without a shadow of a doubt it’s my dog Parker…we’ve only ever spent one night apart at a time, so I’ll definitely miss him.
If you could only listen to one album for the whole crossing, what would it be?
The Greatest Showman. Proper cheesy I know, but Parker and me love singing to this whilst travelling up and down the country on our adventures, easy to sing to and very relatable to life…well I think so.
What would you sing at a karaoke night?
What will you bring as your luxury item?
I’ve deliberated over this as it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one thing, so before this question came up I’d decided I wasn’t going to take anything.
But if I’m pushed to make a decision and obviously I couldn’t bring Parker, it would have to be chocolate, I bloody love chocolate and I’ve not been eating it to try and get fit for the row. Predictable, I know, but I proper love it, and I think whilst you’re out there for so long, I’ll need chocolate.
What is the most annoying habit other people have?
Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice. A strange choice, people will probably think for me, but I read it for my English Literature O’Level and if I’m honest it was probably the first book I ever properly read and enjoyed, up until then I hated reading and just didn’t do it, so this book changed my attitude to reading, and I’ve read it several times since, I love it.
When were you diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease?
It was May 2014, 5 weeks before my 44th birthday, and I can honestly say it was a complete shock as it hadn’t been mentioned anywhere down the line. I was diagnosed after falling over during a long training run for Liverpool marathon.
I had no idea that there was something wrong with me in that way, I just thought I had a shake because there was some nerve damage in my shoulder, how wrong could I be.
How does having Parkinson’s affect day to day life?
I’ve lived with PD now probably for the most part of the last 10 years and the symptoms are endless, every day I could attribute a new quirk of my body to PD. It’s only my right side thats affected, at the moment.
So I struggle with dexterity in my right hand, which then affects my ability to write, some days I can’t, it also affects tying shoelaces fastening buttons, putting my bra on first thing in the morning, chopping up foods as I don’t have the repetitive backwards and forward movement, the list is endless, being originally right handed makes it more awkward as I have to use my left instead, which is quite hard as well.
I struggle in many other ways as well, sleeping is a challenge, getting up in the morning, stiffness. I don’t have much balance or coordination, so some simple things are a challenge.
I forget things, sometimes quite important things, so I write everything down, which as mentioned before is difficult in itself. I don’t have a sense of smell, which with three dogs is quite a good thing! Because of the lack of smell, my taste is affected, so food doesn’t taste the same
I work in a local cafe/bistro as a barista/waitress which brings all sorts of other challenges, as you can imagine. Some days my colleagues laugh and refer to the Julie Walters clip known as Two Soups, google it if you haven’t seen it, it’s hilarious.
Just carrying a glass of Prosecco to a customer, if held in my right hand is something I can’t do, but for some reason, I don’t have any trouble drinking Prosecco!
My life has changed quite dramatically in every way since being diagnosed, but I always say, it changed for the better, it started a completely new chapter in my life, in which I’ve done things I would never have dreamt of or even thought of doing, especially learning to row, let alone rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.