John Granahan’s an inspirational man – no two ways about it. He spoke candidly to Tim Barnes-Clay about what it’s like being a father with Parkinson’s. Here’s what he had to say.
“I was 21 when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but it took me eight years to get that diagnosis. It was horrendous. I knew something was wrong at the time, but I couldn’t explain it. I remember sitting at a bus stop, and people thought I was a tramp, not because of my appearance but because I was unsteady. I was so dizzy and didn’t want to pass out.
However, I can honestly say one of the happiest days of my life was the day I was told I had Parkinson’s. It could have been much worse, and I finally had a diagnosis. From that point onwards, a positive mindset helped me to deal with my condition.
I am a single parent to my fabulous 13-year-old daughter, Olivia. Unfortunately, her mum passed away when she was six, so she came to live with me. It was a bit of a shock to the system, but we got on with it and are doing well. She worries about me a lot, but I try to give her a normal life and be honest. I don’t see the point in lying to her about anything.
Olivia is quite shy and anxious, but she loves doing acting classes. The morning school run is our best time for a chat; it’s lovely just spending time together. It isn’t easy being a single dad and having a teenage daughter has its challenges. But she’s very open with me and knows there’s nothing we can’t natter about. We also have a fantastic support network, including my dad, brother and sister, who live locally, and Olivia’s cousins.
I worry more about what people say to Olivia than what they say to me about my Parkinson’s. Likewise, she’s very defensive and protective and gets agitated when people stare at me. She often has her friends over, and those who know anything about Parkinson’s are very accepting.
It is pretty hard on Olivia when my health is bad. I had a blood clot in 2019 and had to learn to walk again. My speech goes from time to time; I fall over a lot, and she often picks me up. If I need her, she will step up, and she’s very good at reminding me to take my tablets. I love her to pieces, and she’s my world.
I am 51 years old and have lived with Parkinson’s for over 37 years. I live a relatively normal life, and I have developed strategies and techniques to overcome the many problems that Parkinson’s presents. I work full-time, drive, have a mortgage and bills to pay, shopping to do and a house to keep clean like everyone else. I work as a computer technician at Leeds University, who have been so supportive of me. Every day is hard work, but you must stay positive to stay well. There is nothing you can’t do with a bit of help.
Last year I was on holiday in Gran Canaria, when I fell off a jetski and broke my ribs. People asked me, ‘Why were you jet skiing?’ and I said, ‘Why wouldn’t I?’ I don’t see why because I have a disability it should stop me from doing things. Parkinson’s does not define you. It might be trying to take my body, but it won’t win. I am stronger and will keep fighting it.”
Parkinson’s UK has a range of information resources for people with Parkinson’s and their carers. Support is available for everyone affected on the Parkinson’s UK website, free, confidential helpline (0808 800 0303), and online forum. The website also includes support for young carers and advice on talking to children and teenagers about the condition.