U-TurnPD Community Spotlight – Keith S.
Published: January 2, 2024

Keith Strachan: U-Turn Parkinson’s Community Member and Community Advisory Committee Member

When did you join our U-TurnPD community and how did you first hear about us?

Since being formally diagnosed with Parkinson’s on November 25, 2020, I have looked for as many ways to mitigate the progression of this degenerative, movement-centred, neurological disease.

In the course of educating myself about as many things Parkinson’s as possible, I discovered a number of key tenets important when considering a local, beneficial, on-going Parkinson’s therapy plan.

1. MOVEMENT is a key to wellness, and as it turns out, is critically important for those living with Parkinson’s.

“If you move, your body will allow more movement.” — Ido Portal

2. DANCING is an excellent opportunity to move in ways beneficial to those plagued by PD symptoms. Toronto-based Dancing with Parkinson’s (henceforth referred to as DWP) offers safe, and inclusive programming for people living with Parkinson’s disease in order to create meaningful connections, address isolation and shut-in behaviour and to remain physically active.

“Dance is your pulse, your heartbeat, your breathing. It’s the rhythm of your life. It’s the expression in time and movement, in happiness, joy, sadness and envy.” – Jaques D’Ambroise

3. U-TURN PD is a local Parkinson’s-focused organization that strives to guide individuals in improving their quality of life while living with Parkinson’s, by offering a variety of accessible in-person classes, online classes and community support.

“Take action! An inch of movement will bring you closer to your goals than a mile of intention.” ― Steve Maraboli

By December of that fateful year (2020), literally days after my life-changing diagnosis, I had found and enrolled in two programs that were designed to address the principles I had determined were crucial for PD symptom mitigation: U-Turn Parkinson’s and Toronto-based Dancing with Parkinson’s (DWP).

I was fortunate that I had a rather extensive background in information systems and online research. Using my skill set, I found U-TurnPD in my first online foray into PD resources. DWP I stumbled upon through a conversation I had with members of Parkinson’s Canada.

My research lead me to a number of primary PD resources available and useful to Individuals living in Canada:

1. U-Turn Parkinson’s

2. Parkinson Canada

3. The Canadian Open Parkinson Network

4. Dancing With Parkinson´s (DWP)

5. David Phinney Foundation

Why do you attend U-TurnPD’s Dancing with Parkinson’s and why do you think it’s a good class for those living with PD?

Connecting U-TurnPD and DWP seemed a must-do! And so, after introducing the two organizations to one another, they both took up the challenge of creating a U-Turn/DWP offering in Winnipeg!!

This was incredible news and a true “hat’s off” needs to go to Tim Hague, Taylor Devlin, and Sarah Robichaud – the people that made this work.

Fast forward to this fall… (Continue from Newsletter)

Back in September, I participated in the inaugural U-TurnPD/DWP Dance Class session in the new U-TurnPD building here in the south end of the city and easily accessible by most means of transpiration (I think using boat, plane, train or camel as transportation might be cause issues – lol) !

I have to admit I was nervous coming to my first, in-person, on-site, U-TurnPD activity since being diagnosed. Mostly due to Covid concerns, I had been primarily participating in activities remotely.

My arrival went smoothly enough with a lovely, warm welcome and helpful directions to the location in the building I needed to go for my upcoming dance class. I needn’t have been concerned at all, for the space was loaded with people I already knew, for the most part. I had seen most online in other Parkinson’s class offered elsewhere.

This dance class was like no other I had participated in, and it remains one of the best organized, thoughtfully structured, movement classes I have experienced. This is thanks to the incredibly vibrant, talented and friendly instructor named Brenda.

This class turned out to be game-focused, in a way. We were all invited to share our name with an appropriate, accompanying action involving whatever body parts working well enough to be employee into service. The trick was to make the action meaningful or connected to your person in some way. Obviously, I choose a flapping wing-like motion as I am an avid birder.

“Dancing is surely the most basic of relevant of all forms of expression. Nothing else can so effectively give outward form to an inner experience.” – Lyall Watson

As Brenda directed individuals to share their name and action, the rest of us parroted the individual currently sharing as well as repeating any preceding participants name-action paring. This was brilliant! As each action was unique, using a a variety of body parts ranging from head to toe, by the time Brenda had traversed the room, the participants were moving in Parkinson’s friendly manner – flowing, slow, large movements. I was sweating with the exertion of completing all the varied and challenging movements being shared. What a great ice-breaker AND movement class!

Will I return to this weekly offering? Count on it! The community, carefully designed movements, and health and wellness benefits are just too critical to pass up.

What do you like most about being part of the U-TurnPD community?

The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food. – Dean Ornish

Generally speaking, belonging to a community is paramount as it provides support, connection, identity, well-being, learning, growth, and opportunities for collaboration and collective action.

Specifically, being part of this U-Turn PD Family reduces my feelings of isolation, loneliness, and stress, and provides a supportive network that helps me cope with the challenges inherent in a PD diagnosis. It improves my overall quality of life in many ways, impacting both my physical and mental strength positively.

U-TurnPD provides the means for sharing knowledge, skills, and experiences, allowing individuals like myself and other newbies to acquire new perspectives, learn from others, and broaden our horizons.

“Community is much more than belonging to something; its about doing something together that makes belonging matter”

Get to Know Keith:

  • I was born literally in an elevator. This explains my taste in music and my life in general (it’s been an up and down affair from the start).
  • My kids are fond of pointing out that in grade 12, I was only 4’ 9” tall and I stayed that way till I was 22. While I was not medically consider to have Dwarfism, Short Stature IS generally defined as an adult with a height of 4 feet 10 inches (147 centimetres) or less! My kids find it amusing to remind of this fact. They are sooooo droll.
  • I have had the good fortune to have never broken a bone in my body. However, I have shattered my nose (which is cartilaginous) FIVE TIMES!
  • I’ve known since I was in grade 6 that I wanted to be an educator.

Come meet Keith and other U-Turn Parkinson’s community members at one of our in-person or online classes! We look forward to having you join us.