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Hikers battling Parkinson's to tackle Pacific Crest Trail

SPOKANE -- Bill Meyer has always loved the Pacific Crest Trail. He has hiked it for years. His diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease in 2009, however, threatened to cut one of the great loves from his life. 

SPOKANE -- Out on the trail is where Bill Meyer feels most alive – the Pacific Crest trail, in particular. It's where he honeymooned with his wife Nadean.

“We used to say this marriage is starting on rocky footing,” chuckles Bill.

That was 43 years ago, and the two have been side-by-side on their journey ever since.

Nothing, though, could prepare them for the news that came seven years ago.

“At first, it was like hitting a wall,” said Bill, now 63. “I didn't know what I was up against.”

Bill was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Parkinson's disease. So aggressive, doctors installed a pacemaker-like device inside his body that sends electrical charges to his brain to keep his tremors at bay.

When he shuts it off it takes only about three seconds for his arms to start shaking uncontrollably.

“I can't stop it. That's the way my whole day would be.” he said.

It would be easy for Bill to give up, since there is no cure for Parkinson's, but he's defying the disease, and inspiring others to do the same.

Bill and four other people with Parkinson's are embarking on a 72 mile, nine day hike across the Pacific Crest Trail. They’ll hike from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass August 20 -28. They’ll bring a support team that includes a doctor and two pack mules.

The team, called Pass to Pass, is doing it all to raise money and awareness for Parkinson's research, as well as to show people how important exercise is in slowing the disease's advancement.

For fellow Parkinson's sufferer Ken Kisch, the physical challenges of the trek foster a mindset that is critical in combating the disease's ruthlessness.

“I'm trying to prove to myself that I don't have Parkinson's,” he said. “That sounds silly, but that's one of the ways to beat it. They say fake it ‘til you make it. I'm gonna fake it until I don't have Parkinson's.”

For Bill Meyer, it's about meeting the next challenge head on, no matter how steep that climb may be.

“Parkinson's isn't a death sentence,” said Meyer. “It's a new chapter in life and the journey that we're all taking.”

To find out more about the mission, and to donate, visit passtopass.org.

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