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Accolade for Parkinson’s pioneer

By Emily Norman

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It was only after being bowled over by a bull in a cattle yard that Masterton’s Bruce Cutfield went to his doctor and asked about an ongoing minor tremor.

As it turned out, the then 42-year-old had Parkinson’s.

It was 1993 when he was diagnosed, and at that time it was difficult for Mr Cutfield to find other people who could understand what he, his wife Chris, and their children, were going through.

The average age of diagnosis after all is 59, so there was a 17-year difference.

Mr Cutfield, now 66, has some milestone achievements under his belt including having established the UPBEAT network to help people with early-onset Parkinson’s.

The UPBEAT network was created at a national meeting held in Masterton in 2000 and was an avenue of sharing information, experiences and strategies to manage the progressive neurodegenerative condition.

“When I was diagnosed, there was no support for young people, that was the problem,” Mr Cutfield said.

“All the support was for the older people.

“Young people have different problems, they’ve got to pay mortgages, they have young kids to look after – it’s quite spooky.”

Mr Cutfield was recently made a life member of the Wairarapa division of Parkinson’s New Zealand where he had been treasurer for 17 years.

He is still on the committee, and said that although “you get very self-conscious of Parkinson’s because of your trembling, or what not”, people with the condition needed to “worry less and live more”.

“Parkinson’s doesn’t actually kill you – you don’t die of Parkinson’s.

“Get out and just live your life. Eat well, look after yourself and don’t drink too much, all that sort of thing – sounds a bit corny, but they are the cornerstones of living a good healthy lifestyle.”

Mr Cutfield is also a life member of Parkinson’s New Zealand where he was previously on the National Management Committee holding the roles of chairman and treasurer.

Mrs Cutfield said her husband still had “a lot to contribute” towards Parkinson’s awareness in New Zealand, and his focus would remain on “getting the young people to come out and be comfortable with their Parkinson’s”.

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