It's been a tough year for Patricia Ballentyne.
Between personal family struggles and her own health issues, the 60-year-old Kamloops grandmother could be forgiven if all she wanted to do this summer was relax by the pond in her backyard and listen to the birds sing.
"My husband was a little apprehensive for me to take this on at this time because there's been a lot of adjustment in our lives," said Ballentyne.
"But I really feel that it's important to do what I can while I'm still mobile enough."
Ballentyne is this year's honourary leader of the Parkinson SuperWalk, which takes place Sept. 8 at Riverside Park.
Her task over the next few weeks is to tirelessly promote the fundraiser and help spread awareness about Parkinson's disease, something Ballentyne knows all too well.
She was diagnosed about three years ago but, like many people living with Parkinson's, her symptoms began much earlier than that. It started with hand tremors and muscle weakness, two symptoms Ballentyne had seen in her mother, who had Parkinson's in her last years.
"I started to see myself doing things that felt like my mother - just ways that I would get up from the table, and I had a tremor for quite a while," recalled Ballentyne.
Climbing stairs was a challenge - impossible without a handrail. "I would be pulling myself always."
After repeated visits to her doctor, only to be told her symptoms weren't Parkinson's, Ballentyne asked to see a neurologist.
It took a year to get an appointment and when she finally got in, the diagnosis was no simple matter; her symptoms were clouded by the medication she was taking to treat another issue. The neurologist said Ballentyne needed to stop taking that drug so they could isolate the tremors and muscle weakness.
At first, the symptoms subsided.
"I started getting better and wasn't showing nearly as many symptoms," said Ballentyne. "I thought, 'Oh, great! Maybe I don't have it.'"
But the symptoms returned. The right side of Ballentyne's face began to droop. Her hands shook noticeably.
It was her mother's symptoms all over again.
"I could see my mom's face when I looked in the mirror; I could see my hands; they shook the way hers shook," she said.
There were other signs, too. Ballentyne's right foot turned inward, her right arm dangled awkwardly and she had difficulty keeping her balance.
It wasn't long before she got the diagnosis of Parkinson's.
Ballentyne is now on two medications, which help to control her tremors. These enable her to maintain some mobility, even though crowds seem to exacerbate her symptoms.
"I find my movement much more difficult when I'm out in public, and I don't know if that's because I feel people watching or what it is," she said.
"If I'm more intent on getting somewhere, it always slows me and I become more conscious and that makes it worse. I guess I do find myself saying I'm sorry a lot, and I shouldn't because I have nothing to be sorry for."
Over the several few days, Ballentyne will be busier than ever promoting the SuperWalk and raising funds. She was the top fundraiser last year, at just over $2,000.
She's hoping to beat that - and she's well on her way.
"It's important to me that we find a cure," said Ballentyne, who takes her job as SuperWalk ambassador seriously.
"I realize I can't have the same impact that Michael J. Fox has or Mohammad Ali, or even Billy Graham. But each one of us has an innate value and we're worth fighting for, and this cause is worth fighting for because we need a cure."
It's not too late to register for the Parkinson SuperWalk. For more information, contact 250-374-0798 or www.parkinsonsuperwalk.ca. Donors can also pledge Ballentyne by calling 250-374-2513.