Bucklew runs against Parkinson’s
Evan Bucklew, 6, and sister Madeleine, 8, cheered on their dad Bill Bucklew, who completed the Sept. 9 Ironman Wisconsin triathlon. Bucklew, of Wilmette, raised $3,400 for Parkinson's disease research on behalf of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.Evan Bucklew, 6, and sister Madeleine, 8, cheered on their dad Bill Bucklew, who completed the Sept. 9 Ironman Wisconsin triathlon. Bucklew, of Wilmette, raised $3,400 for Parkinson's disease research on behalf of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.Evan Bucklew, 6, and sister Madeleine, 8, cheered on their dad Bill Bucklew, who completed the Sept. 9 Ironman Wisconsin triathlon. Bucklew, of Wilmette, raised $3,400 for Parkinson's disease research on behalf of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
WHO: Bill Bucklew
WHAT: Wisconsin Ironman
WHY: Raising money for Parkinson’s research
To learn more about Parkinson’s disease and the Michael J. Fox Foundation, visit www.michaeljfox.org/.
To donate in Bucklew’s effort, visit www2.michaeljfox.org/site/TR/TeamFox/TeamFox?px=1607346&pg=personal&fr_id=1053 .
Updated: October 21, 2012 1:19PM
WILMETTE — When Bill Bucklew first began noticing stiffness in his legs while running a couple of years ago, he checked with his doctor. The initial diagnosis was sciatica, but treatment didn’t help.
Bucklew, 43, looked farther afield for answers; first reading about a woman with Parkinson’s disease whose symptoms mirrored his – muscle tightness, short-term memory problems, deteriorating handwriting – then talking to a friend who planned to do research on the neurological disorder.
“We were talking at dinner,” Bucklew remembered as he readied himself for the Ironman Wisconsin triathlon. “I grabbed him and asked him what he thought of my situation. He hooked me up with a specialist.”
When that specialist told him last March that he had Parkinson’s, “it was like a punch in the chest,” the houseware and kitchen appliance designer from Wilmette said.
Parkinson’s, a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder, usually affects people over age 60, but early-onset Parkinson’s can strike people as young as 18.
Bucklew learned that the disease’s damage to nerve cells would progressively cut into his ability to control his movements, and affect other aspects of his nervous system’s operations. He also learned it has no cure, but myriad possible causes.
Getting the diagnosis might have sent some people into shock or depression. It spurred Bucklew to action.
“It’s a difficult message to hear, I guess, but that’s when I decided I needed to figure out a way to help the community to solve the problem,” he said.
First, he became part of a five-year research project into possible Parkinson’s biomarkers, being led by his specialist, Dr. Tanya Simuni, for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Then he decided to raise money for the foundation, after being impressed with the breadth and efficiency of its support for defeating the disease.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a man whose first symptoms manifested as part of his running habit, Bucklew decided to raise his money by completing the Sept. 9 triathlon in Madison, Wis.
“It was something I’ve always wanted to do but was afraid to do, but this forced me to think of the life I have and what I can do with it now,” he said. “I think it’s my way of saying that if I can do an Ironman with the problems I have, then maybe I can inspire people to get involved and support the effort to fight this.”
Before training for the event – 2.4 miles of swimming followed by more than 100 miles of biking and a marathon run – Bucklew’s last lengthy effort had been for the 1999 Chicago Marathon. He had less than six months to prepare; the usual preparation time is several months longer.
“I’d get up at 5 a.m. and ride the bike before going to work. My work is close to a fitness facility, so two to three days I week I’d run at lunch, or swim, and on the weekends I’d try to have one or two long bike rides or runs,” he said.
Bucklew’s wife Heidi said Sept. 10 that she wasn’t surprised when he decided to use the triathlon as a fundraising challenge, “since he’s always been an adventurous person.
“It was hard to go to the doctor’s with him and hear the formal diagnosis,” Heidi Bucklew said, “but the thing about Parkinson’s is that each person’s condition is different.”
The two met in college and will celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary on Sept. 28. Heidi Bucklew traveled to Wisconsin to cheer him on while her parents watched daughter Madeleine, 8, and six-year-old Evan.
Before the triathlon, Bucklew set his fundraising goal at a modest $1,500. He also joked, “My goal is to finish. I hope I can do it.”
He might have been unsure of himself, but he finished the race in 14 hours and 49 minutes — 40 minutes under his own goal — and garnered $3,400 in donations.
“It was an amazing experience, and I was really honored by the generosity of people,” he said.
Heidi Bucklew wasn’t surprised: “I knew, 100 percent, that he could make it.”