THEY do not come much more inspirational than Invercargill man Chris Dooley.
Mr Dooley’s story is one of setback after setback, with a big dose of tragedy mixed in.
He has every right to have had waves of bitterness flow over him with what life has at times dished up to him. However, he oozes positivity.
Ten years ago, at age 37, Mr Dooley was rocked by the news that he had Parkinson’s disease.
The disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder of the brain. Symptoms include tremors, stiffness or rigidity, and slowness of movement.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease and Mr Dooley has had to go about managing the symptoms.
Bit by bit he has done just that.
In February last year, Mr Dooley’s life was again turned upside down.
His 79-year-old father Leslie was hit by a drink-driver and killed in a crash in Invercargill.
Inside a matter of a few weeks, two of his cousins were also killed in separate crashes.
He was forced to deal with the sudden death of three family members in a short space of time.
Naturally anger brewed, but again Mr Dooley switched back to a life of positivity.
A year on from the death of his father, life threw him another curve ball to contend with.
In February this year, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer and he underwent surgery to remove his bowel.
Again Mr Dooley looked to what he had, rather than what he did not.
“Life is too short to be down and to just sit at home and do nothing. You’ve got to get out and get on with life. I just put my mind in a positive place,” he said.
Mr Dooley has a vegetable garden he is proud of, is into four-wheel-driving and plans to head to Greymouth soon to buy a caravan to trip around in and visit motorsport events.
He was also a regular visitor at the Southland Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Society offices in Invercargill.
The organisation has played a key role in helping Mr Dooley remain active and engaged with other people while dealing with his Parkinson’s.
The society provides opportunities for those with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s to get out and about and connect with people.
Southland MS Society manager Rachel Hucklebridge said Mr Dooley had embraced that.
“He is an inspiration to me, that’s for sure. We’ve got a walking group and when I’m not there he gives me a stoke up,” she said.
Mr Dooley has a love for motorsport and last Friday the MS Society organised for him to spend some time with the Simon Gilbertson and John McIntyre Racing Team in the lead-up to the round of the South Island Endurance Series at Teretonga Park.
He was then gifted a ticket to ensure he could take in the action last Saturday.
“The society is there to support people with MS and Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s. But it’s also important to create opportunities for members,” Ms Hucklebridge said.
“It’s about finding their passions and building a rapport and making those connections.”
Southland had one of the highest rates of Parkinson’s in New Zealand, Ms Hucklebridge said.
However, that had not transferred to relative numbers in terms of people joining the organisation, she said.
She believed there were many people in Southland living with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s who had not tapped into the support services which were available.
Mr Dooley encouraged people to do so, again stressing that life was too short not to enjoy it.
He said the Southland Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Society had helped him live the life he wanted to.