By Emma Prior
For Raylene Argus simple tasks like getting up in the morning can sometimes be a struggle due to her diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease.
But she is not letting her illness stop her from being a part of the community and living her life to the fullest.
“I haven’t lost my independence. It’s good to mix with people and get out and have a good time and not be hindered,” she said.
“I’m not going to lay in bed all day and think ‘woe is me, I’m sick’.”
Raylene’s Parkinson’s journey started in 2004 when she had a tremor while driving to work. Her brothers told her to get it checked out but she didn’t think it was anything major and never went to get checked.
Two years later in 2006 at the age of 53, while at the doctors for an unrelated matter Raylene had a tremor and was referred to neurologist Steven Ring in Albury because the doctor could tell it was something more than just bad nerves as Raylene had always suspected.
As expected hearing the news she had Parkinson’s wasn’t an easy thing and Raylene said she could not believe it for some time.
“I was in denial for two years,” Raylene said.
“It’s hard to understand what your body is going through.”
At the time of diagnosis Raylene was working at Woods Point Aged Care as a carer and looked after people with Parkinson’s.
“The diagnosis was harder for me because I was looking after people with Parkinson’s and I thought, ‘well I have to go through that’, but I’ve found now, I won’t necessarily go through that because everyone’s journey is different.”
“I went from being a carer to being cared for.”
Raylene had to give up work at the aged care facility as she began to become unable to hold onto things properly as well as suffering memory loss from time to time which she said was dangerous when part of her job was to give medication to patients.
“I was a carer and wasn’t able to give the level of care required,” she said.
Although giving up her job was tough, the most difficult aspect of changing her life was not being able to drive anymore.
“It’s been three or four years now but it was one of the hardest decisions I had to make but I made it by myself, because I couldn’t hold onto the steering wheel,” Raylene said.
“What really upset me after I handed in my license was the loss of my independence.”
Today Raylene has friends that drive her to where she needs to go as well as having a taxi card and using the town bus service.
As there is no cure for the Parkinson’s disease, patients are only able to take medications to level out the symptoms they suffer.
The symptoms vary but Raylene suffers many of them including a dry mouth where she must use a special toothpaste, mouth ulcers due to the dry mouth, dry eyes and dry skin, as well as troubles with her teeth and legs.
Raylene’s right side also has damage as her muscles have deteriorated from all the shaking.
“I may not look like I have Parkinson’s cause I’m not shaking at the moment but all the time you are shaking internally and people don’t realise that. It makes you very tired,” she said.
“I have to rest every afternoon because its tiring internally, you’re always internally shaking.”
Having neurologist Dr Arup so close in Cobram is a major bonus for Raylene but she said it is really good that there is a lot of help in town too and that people understand.
Although only being a relatively small town the local area has a large group of people that suffer from the disease but there are many places and people that can help and are very understanding.
Although Raylene’s life is different now she has Parkinson’s, it is not all her life is about.
Raylene started doing aqua aerobics which has helped with her balance and she loves playing cards and calling bingo at the nursing home.
“I’m a people person. I’m a member of the newcomer’s coffee club where once a fortnight I catch up with the newcomers of the town to show them around and put them in contact with different things they need,” Raylene said.
“It’s a way to welcome people to the town and encourage more people to move here.”
“I’m happy living in Yarrawonga. I love Yarrawonga, it’s my town.”
Yarrawonga has a local support group which catches up once a month for lunch and a chat and every two or three months organiser Chris Partington organises guest speakers to come and talk.
For people who have recently been diagnosed and are unsure what to expect they can ring Chris Partington or Raylene at Yarrawonga Health as they are available to help.
The Yarrawonga Mulwala Parkinson’s Disease Support Group is organising a Walk for Parkinson’s awareness on Sunday, October 1 starting at 10am at the Visitor Information centre. It is only $5 to participate with all proceeds going to Parkinson’s Vic for research.
The walk will take place across the traffic bridge and, depending on the abilities of those participating with Parkinson’s, may loop back around the weir bridge or cross back over the traffic bridge.
Sausage sizzle, tea and coffee will be available afterwards as well as merchandise.
Organisers want everyone to be wary it is the first day of daylight savings so move clocks forward an hour before you head to bed and look out for the magpies as its swooping season.
For more information on the Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Walk phone Judy Ramsdale on 5744 1974 or the Community Health Centre on 5743 8500 or for more information on the disease itself call Parkinson’s Victoria on 1800 644 189.