Man Diagnosed With Parkinson’s At 36 Challenges Himself To Climb Everest

An adventurer who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at 36 is now planning to conquer Mount Everest. 

When Alex Flynn was 36, he found out something terrifying. At such a young age, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – a progressive nervous system disorder. But this didn’t crush his spirits.

Credits: Alex Flynn

In the last 13 years, Alex has been proving that being diagnosed with Parkinson’s doesn’t mean your life is over. During that time, the young-at-heart adventurer has taken extreme challenges, including marathons, ultra-endurance races, and triathlons, to help raise awareness about the disease.

Now, at 49, Alex is planning to climb Moun Everest. In fact, he did it twice last year, using the stairs at his home. It took him a little over a week and 220,000 steps to successfully climb the equivalent height of the mountain not once, but twice.

In an interview with Unilad, the athlete said he got the idea of the “vertical marathon” after seeing people running marathons in their gardens during lockdown. He added:

“So I decided to do one. I guess I was bored of lockdown and wanted to keep Parkinson’s in people’s minds.”

Credits: Alex Flynn

Alex’s journey to Mount Everest will take place in April next year. 

The opportunist shared:

“Having crossed continents, jungle, desert and been to the Arctic, I was searching for the next challenge and thought why not Everest? It will certainly be a hard climb but I’m curious to see how far I can go beyond that which we think we are capable of.

If I achieve what I set out to do at 14 years post-diagnosis and probably living with Parkinson’s for more than 20 years, I think it will change minds about neurological disease and raise attention of and money to fund the creation of better treatments.”

According to his website, “It all started with a coffee cup in 2008.”

At the time Alex noticed a concerning tremor in his right hand, he was training for the Marathon Des Sables the following year. At first, he thought he was just “overdoing it with exercise.” But when he sought medical help as the issue persisted, a neurologist told him he had Parkinson’s.

He recalls:

“When the official diagnosis was made, I was numb. I remember thinking, why me? How will this impact my family? What does my future hold for me now? I also wondered why I was thanking the man who had told me that I have a disease with currently no cure. I don’t remember driving home.”

Credits: Alec Flynn

Unfortunately, while struggling with his disease, Alex lost his job as a lawyer, his marriage, and his ability to do certain tasks. Getting a new job was also a problem, as employers were hesitant to hire a man with Parkinson’s.

Nevertheless, the disease also changed his life for the better. A great example is that it “cemented [his] desire to maintain fitness and movement,” which led him to a “journey of adventure.”

The first challenge Alex took part in to raise awareness about his condition was indeed the 2009 Marathon des Sables across the Sahara desert.

Despite going through many difficulties during the marathon, including a heart infection, the adventurer knew he had to continue participating in suchlike challenges to raise funds and spread the word about Parkinson’s and its impact on millions of people in the world.

Credits: Alex Flynn

Mentioning a 2-year-old child who was diagnosed with the disease in 2016, Alex said:

“God knows what that kid will go through and it makes me more determined, to do everything in my power and with every opportunity I have, to raise funds for Parkinson’s research so that people with neurological disease and in particular Parkinson’s can one day say that they used to have Parkinson’s.”

Thanks to the many adventures he has experienced, Alex has raised more than $530,000 for Parkinson’s disease. 

Now that he continues raising funds through his Everest journey, he hopes he would increase the figure. You can help him by donating to his GoFundMe page Alex’s Mt Everest Challenge

But raising money is not the only goal Alex has. By climbing the highest mountain in the world, he also hopes he would prove that “diagnosis is no barrier to being able to achieve your goals and dreams.” He concludes:

“Whether or not you have neurological disease, we can all be extraordinary.”

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