She does it all from Carleton Place Terrace.
At almost 79, and very computer savvy, she sits in front of her large-screen, digs into her database of friends and family from across Canada and down into the States, and starts to send out request letters.
In 2017, she and her team raised $8,400; this year, so far, she’s reached $2,300 — but she still has 31 days in August and seven in September before the Parkinson’s Canada SuperWalk.
Pat Hansen has had Parkinson’s Disease for at least 20 years, maybe longer. She remembers when she first felt something wasn’t right. It was at her father’s funeral when she tried to slide across the seat of the limousine to reach the door. She couldn’t.
She quickly noticed other things — in pictures she looked hunched, it was more difficult to walk, she couldn’t stand up straight. And then, stopping to rest during a bike ride with Henry, her husband, she was very shaky (Pat demonstrates forcefully by shaking her hands). “Henry looked at me and said something’s wrong.” She was diagnosed February 1, 1999 and Parkinson’s was confirmed by a neurologist seven short weeks later near the end of March.
That’s another thing people notice about the small brightly dressed woman: not only does she raise money, and is computer literate, she has an astonishing memory for dates — like the day she caught a 58-inch long sailfish in Isla Morada in the Florida Keys. That was 1978.
Pat was raised in Britannia in Ottawa, went to Broadview Public School and then onto Nepean High School, married her first husband in 1961 and married for the second time in 1976; between she and her second husband, they had eight children — she has four daughters, he had three daughters and a son.
She worked “in construction, mostly” as an office manager; Henry was a dealer in eastern Ontario and western Quebec for Pan Abode; in 1983 the two moved to Victoria where Pat opened a Bed and Breakfast. She met some “interesting people” along the way, she grins that impish grin. They eventually moved back to Ontario as her Mom was getting older, and bought an old house in Carleton Place on William Street.
Henry died just last year on May 28, and Pat vividly remembers that day. “I said [to Henry] I’m going to kiss you on the forehead. I did. He held my hand up and kissed me on the hand. I said I love you…I always have and always will. He died two hours later.
“It’s good I had that…”
That year they didn’t fundraise for the SuperWalk as the memory was just too fresh.
But this year she’s at it again and this year she’s raising money with a Lanark North Leeds team — Dan Linton and his family (Karen Amy, Amanda and Zachary) plus Pat’s daughter Kim and Henry’s daughter Sonja. The money raised on the walks goes towards “supporting people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers, towards advocacy on behalf of people with Parkinson’s, education, getting the word out about what is happening, research…. Hopefully, there’ll be a cure.”
She does have one thought, in particular, she wants to get across. That is, for friends and caregivers, to understand just how differently people with Parkinson’s experience the disease.
“I have a dickens of a time saying ‘no’ to people when they want to help…but there are certain things that hinder you.” Pat is very capable of doing things for herself and one of those is “wheeling down the hall. People start wheeling me without thinking, without asking if they can help, only saying ‘Watch your fingers.’
“I get frustrated. People need to ask first.”
And, when she’s walking, people offer help by putting a hand on her back. “I seize up. I’m useless. That’s the big one.
“There needs to be some dialogue.”
She stops here to almost apologize. “Everybody with Parkinson’s sounds so positive and upbeat. Why do I sound a bit negative? Maybe because I’ve had it longer than most….”
Pat Hansen is a local hero. There are lots of them around…we just don’t see, or notice them often.
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder. It might run in families; it might not. The cause remains unknown. There is no cure. Treatment options include medications and surgery. Sometimes the progression is slow; at other times it’s quick. Every Parkinson’s patient is different.
Come out and walk at the Parkinson’s SuperWalk September 7 at Conlon Farm in Perth. Caregivers and people with Parkinson’s will be raising funds for research and local programs. For information, go to http://donate.parkinson.ca/lanarknorthleeds and come and join the fight against Parkinson’s.
Look for Pat. She’ll be there with her walker or her portable wheelchair…and a lot of friends.