Val working to make a difference

Bendigo volunteer Val Lester is one of 27,000 Victorians living with Parkinson’s.

While Mrs Lester was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s 26 years ago, she has worked very hard at keeping fit and active.

One of her ways of maintaining a positive outlook on life has been to work as a volunteer for the St Lukes/Uniting Church Opportunity Shop in McCrae Street.

“It’s important to keep going, you can’t sit around and say ‘poor me’,” the 79-year-old said.

“I love it in here in the shop. It makes a big difference to come in and work with people who have become my friends and meet people during the day.”

Mrs Lester said that after 26 years of living with Parkinson’s she is still mobile, but her hands tremble so much it can take her about three days to write a letter.

“I first realised my head was trembling when one of my grandchildren asked me why my head was shaking one day. Stress can make the tremors more pronounced,” Mrs Lester said.

When she was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Mrs Lester was told she probably only had seven years to live.

“It was a terrible shock at the time, but people are affected in different degrees and, like me, can have many years in front of them,” she said.

Along with Alby Cough, Mrs Lester is a leader of the Bendigo support group for people with Parkinson’s.

She said that sadly the membership of their group is increasing as the number of people suffering from Parkinson’s is increasing by four per cent every year.

“Our members range in age from 40 and up and come from Woodend, Castlemaine, Bridgewater and Heathcote,” Mrs Lester said.

“We have both men and women in the group and I know that there are some very young people out there who are affected by Parkinson’s, but they are reluctant to come to a support group. It is very sad when a young girl of 22 has it, we old people can cope.

“Our meetings are very helpful. We talk about the latest research and medications that are available and we also have guest speakers such as the physiotherapist who came last month.

“And we don’t always talk about our health – farming and football are popular subjects. The meetings are also a great way to keep busy and take your mind off your worries.”

Along with an estimated 2500 other people – friends, family and supporters and people with Parkinson’s – Mrs Lester will be taking part in the “Walk in the Park” at Federation Square to help raise awareness of Parkinson’s and raise funds for Parkinson’s Victoria.

The peak body representing the needs and interest of people living with the condition, Parkinson’s Victoria, has been organising the Walk in the Park since 2009.

The walk will be held on Sunday, August 26, at 11am. If people are interested in attending the event Mrs Lester will be organising a bus to go down to Federation Square.

n For more information about the bus trip or

the support group, you can contact Mrs Lester

on 5447 3668.

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