ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Imagine a doctor telling you that you have a disease for which there is no cure. It’s a diagnosis that hits like a freight train. That’s what happened to a Rochester-area man who is not taking a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease sitting still.
The golf course is Ray Cali’s favorite place. And at Lake Shore Country Club, what’s not to love?
If you have the patience for the game, there’s a lot to love.
“If the weather’s nice, the golf course is the best place to be,” said Cali, a retired physical education teacher from Greece.
For Cali, the draw of the game is also about the camaraderie and the challenge.
“It’s not me against them,” he said. “It’s me against myself, trying to do the best I can.”
That last part took on new meaning about six years ago. In early 2015, Ray began to notice something was wrong. He had tremors in his arm. Ray couldn’t sleep.
A follow-up doctor’s visit came with a punch to the gut.
“Within 10 minutes, the words Parkinson's were coming out of their mouth, and I was in shock,” he said. “By the time we got out to the parking lot after that appointment, we had decided that Parkinson's is not going to run our life.”
Ray said he decided then and there that he would live with the diagnosis, and do the best he could to overcome it. He joined support groups, and began an intense exercise regimen. It was the only way he knew to confront the disease, for which there is no cure, was to fight it head-on.
“The only thing proven in the research to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease is exercise,” said Taylor Drake, physical therapist at Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery. “Medication can help mask the symptoms a little bit, but exercise is the only thing shown to slow the progression.”
Ray credits his wife and the Parkinson’s support groups he belongs to. Dual task exercises help sharpen both his physical and his cognitive skills.
“A lot of people when they hear the diagnosis are understandably upset,” said Drake. “But there is so much out there for support for people with Parkinson's.”
Over the past three years, Ray figures he’s played about 100 rounds of a year. Despite Parkinson’s, he has walked every single one of them.
“My goal is to keep moving,” he said. “And although it's probably the more fun to ride the cart, this is sometimes the only exercise I get.”
Exercise, in this case, is the best medicine. And there’s no time to slow down.