DAVE McGrath-Blake's life was turned upside down in 2019. 

He was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s aged 38 and was referred to a neurologist by his GP after experiencing a hand tremor on and off for several years.

He has bravely shared his experience with Parkinson’s as part of a worldwide awareness day.

Parkinson's is a condition which progressively gets worse where people do not get enough of the feel-good chemical dopamine in their brain as their nerve cells stop working. 

Researchers believe it is caused by age, genetic, and environmental factors with about 153,000 people in the UK living with Parkinson’s and it is also the fastest growing neurological condition in the world.

Dave and his wife Ellen were overwhelmed and shocked when he was diagnosed, particularly as they had children aged one, three, and five at the time.

Ellen said: “The news just knocked us for six.

“Dave in particular was in denial for about six months and didn't tell any family or friends, so this was a hugely isolating time. You really do feel so alone and think 'why us, why Dave?’”.

Gazette: Group - Ellen McGrath-Blake (front) and other members of the peer support groupGroup - Ellen McGrath-Blake (front) and other members of the peer support group (Image: Submitted)

Dave has had talking therapy to help him process the diagnosis which has changed his mindset from thinking of Parkinson’s in his case as “not a life ending diagnosis, just a life altering one."

While Ellen, having worked in a neuro rehab for five years by the time of Dave’s diagnosis, said she must admit that she herself hadn’t realised it still can affect those of a younger age.

Ellen said she is grateful for wonderful colleagues who gave expert support, but as others do not have this support, in 2023 she set up a group in the area for those with Young Onset Parkinson’ where people can talk, or not talk about, there shared experiences. 

Gazette: Defiant - Geoff Lawrence, who has Parkinson's, release an album after being diagnosed in 2022Defiant - Geoff Lawrence, who has Parkinson's, release an album after being diagnosed in 2022 (Image: Cerys Bye)

Geoff Lawrence, of Rowhedge, 63, is considered a stalwart of the Colchester music scene and since being diagnosed in his late 50s turned to bass and the keyboard after being unable to play guitar due to tremoring.

Geoff said: "World Parkinson's day is about raising awareness of this frustrating and unpleasant condition and about raising funds to help for research.

"A cure is the dream."  

Geoff, and eight other bands, will also be raising money for Parkinson's UK at Ye Olde Albion Rowhedge, May 5.