Parkinson’s advocates prepare for West Coast ride

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Kathy Host, manager at Cedar’s RV Park in Ferndale, hosted Roy Roden and Mick Beaman for several days in Ferndale before the pair made it to Vancouver to start their ride. (Mark Reimers/Ferndale Record)

Duo stopped in Ferndale before hitting starting spot in Vancouver

FERNDALE — Roy Roden and Mick Beaman are raising awareness for Parkinson’s Disease research. How they are doing it may surprise some people.

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month and the duo, who both suffer from the ailment, are celebrating by biking all the way from Vancouver, B.C., to Tijuana, Mexico.

But the pair aren’t only intent on raising awareness and supporting research and finding a cure. They also want people to understand that the disease is definitely not a death sentence. Indeed, Roden and Beaman, both Arizona residents, believe they have become better men since their diagnoses.

“I did things I haven’t done before,” Beaman said. “I started caring about other people. Some think it’s a curse, but you can treat it like a blessing.”

At 31 years old, Beaman was diagnosed in 2001 after numerous false leads on identifying his escalating condition. He had already been exhibiting symptoms for three years. But that’s the cruel irony of Parkinson’s: Many doctors have trouble diagnosing it even though it is one of the leading neurological diseases in the nation, second only to Alzheimer’s.

Roden said Beaman’s youthful diagnosis isn’t as uncommon as people might think. The condition sometimes goes undetected altogether for some time, but all the while degrading the subject’s brain. Roden said it is the brain’s Dopamine-producing cells are the first to be destroyed.

For Roden, Parkinson’s has given him a much greater mission, free of the concerns he used to have.

“I had everything I wanted,” Roden said. “But I was owned by those things.”

Roden, 57, a successful businessman, has already completed an awareness ride from Seattle to Miami — much longer than his current effort.

“We are using bikes and the ride to get in front of the media,” Roden said. “We’ll talk to everyone we can.”

Roden and Beaman’s trip raises awareness and also money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the American Parkinson Disease Association. However, Roden also serves as a spokesman for Medtronic, the medical technology company that developed DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) therapy.

Roden has benefited dramatically from DBS. His original tremors have all but disappeared. The technology, he said, is comparable to having a pacemaker for the brain.

Almost more than conquering his tremors, one of the biggest benefits of DBS for Roden has been the ability to live with fewer medications, all of which have their own side effects and challenges.

For example, some drugs designed to help with tremors end up causing dyskinesia, a different movement disorder. Some drugs are meant to tackle side effects of other drugs.

What’s more troubling to Beaman and Roden is the fact that over half of people with Parkinson’s end up depressed. And yes, even that can lead to more drugs.

The toll can be staggering. Many can’t play simple games with their children. Many can’t communicate well with spouses for lack of focus. In many cases, sufferers don’t even realize how many options they have.

That’s why Beaman and Roden started a support group together for those with young-onset diagnoses. Their experiences have been eye-opening.

One man Roden met on his last trip had been diagnosed and simply told that it was a disease with no cure. His doctor gave him no more information and he became a recluse — until a mutual friend introduced him to Roden.

“This guy knew nothing,” Roden said. “He hadn’t left his apartment in a long time and was just a shaking quivering mass of depression. When I told him it wasn’t a death sentence, he started crying.”

It took some convincing, but Roden is hopeful that the young man is much more positive about life.

One of the keys to maintaining a healthy outlook, according to the two riders, is simply finding a way to move forward and stay active. It’s definitely a challenge sometimes.

“I have days I want to be a couch potato because it hurts,” Roden said. “But I have to have a mind-set to get off the couch and take a walk or get on a bike. Parkinson’s can be so isolating.”

With just exercise alone, Roden has seen older sufferers go from nearly zero mobility, to being able to walk unaided by even a cane.

Biking across America took four months in 2013. This trip is a little shorter; Beaman and Roden are hoping to reach Mexico in about two months.

The two friends are accompanied by Beaman’s fiance Zada and an RV emblazoned with information about the “PD Challenge,” as the trip has been dubbed.

To follow along, visit Or donate to the cause at