It was the trip of a lifetime – and a trip that changed their lives. Roy and Lynn Roden rode their bicycles cross-country on a fourmonth, 5,000-mile journey from Seattle to Miami to raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease and money to find a cure.
Roy, 55, who grew up in Pembroke Pines and Miami, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago. He’s worked in the fitness industry for more than 37 years. He met his wife Lynn, who is now a personal trainer, when she was a client at Olympia Gym in Aventura.The Rodens are certainly not ones to sit around and let Parkinson’s disease take control.
The couple began their Parkinson’s Ride Across America last November with their two dogs in tow, riding in carriers behind them. Their route took them along the Pacific Coast Highway in California and then through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and finally, to Florida.
The Rodens’ return home was a brief pit stop on their continuing journey. They were back in the area just long enough to pack up their Airstream with life’s necessities, and then move west. They sold most of their belongings before their four-month bike trek and bought the camper, which was driven by family members and friends and served as their safe haven.
“We got rid of the penthouse and the Porsche, and traded it all in for a simpler, stress-free lifestyle,” said Roden. “When you get a disease, your priorities change. It’s not about quantity of things and what’s in your bank account; it’s about the quality of life.”
The Rodens will live in Wesport, California, during the summer and work at a KOA campground where they stayed on the trip. They’ll spend the winters in Tucson, Arizona.
“The two places we stopped for longer than a day during our trip are the two places we plan to call home – for now,” said Roden. “Westport is simply beautiful. And, we met some amazing people in both places.”
In Tucson, the couple met Becky Farley, Ph.D., a researcher, physical therapist, neuroscientist and Parkinson’s exercise specialist who founded Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery (PWR), a wellness center for Parkinson’s patients. The doctor’s motto at PWR is: “We believe people with Parkinson’s can get better and stay better with exercise.”
“Dr. Farley is looking to expand her facility and take her exercise program nationwide,” said Roden. “I will serve as a consultant, and Lynn has become a certified instructor and will also assist with marketing.”
In other words, the Rodens will continue on their journey to educate people about Parkinson’s disease and help those afflicted by it.
“Our ride was simply a tool to help us spread awareness,” said Roden. “We were able to speak to the media and get exposure. In El Paso, we were on three television programs, did two radio shows and talked to two newspapers in one day.”
Along the way, the Rodens also met with Parkinson’s patients, physicians and researchers, and Roy shared his experiences of managing the disease. Afew of his key messages: Parkinson’s is not an “oldperson’s” disease. It’s not a death sentence. Get treatment.
“Although I was diagnosed at age 50, I had symptoms when I was 40,” said Roden. “No one thought about Parkinson’s disease at that age.”
Roden continued, “Because there’s no cure, people get depressed, give up and don’t seek treatment. I met people on this trip who had been diagnosed, but had received no treatment and were not even taking medication to help with the symptoms. It was infuriating. I hope I’ve inspired people to get treatment so they can live life to the fullest, even with this disease.”
Across the country, Roy spoke about the benefits of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), a treatment he had last summer. DBS is a brain stimulation therapy that uses an implanted medical device, similar to a pacemaker, to deliver electrical stimulation to precisely targeted areas of the brain. The treatment suppresses Parkinson’s symptoms, which can include tremors, cramping, involuntary movements, insomnia and difficulty swallowing and walking.
“I would not have been able to complete this trip without the benefits of this treatment,” said Roy. “I encourage people with Parkinson’s to not view DBS as a last resort.” An estimated 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson disease. Each year, about 50,000 to 60,000 cases of Parkinson’s are diagnosed. About 10-20 percent of those diagnosed are under the age of 50, and about half of those are diagnosed before age 40. To date, there is no cure. On the Rodens’ website, PDChallenge.com, donations directly benefit various Parkinson’s charities that work to make a difference and find a cure.
The Rodens have been lifted by the overwhelming community support they received before their journey and along the way: Olympia Gym of Aventura hosted fundraisers; Whole Foods donated pallets of supplies and food; City Bikes in Aventura donated equipment, including a GoPro to document their journey; Best Buy donated an iPad to blog; and KOA Campgrounds offered free lodging.
The couple is planning another epic bicycle ride later this year. They’ll bike from New York to Montreal, Canada, to attend the third World Parkinson Congress, held in Montreal, Oct. 1-4.
“We’re really just getting started,” said Roden.