In 2013 - "the watershed year", prominent Palmerston North travel agent Steve Parsons noticed a tremor in the little finger of his left hand.
"I said to my wife 'I hope it's not what I think it is' and it was."
It was Parkinson's. Parkinson's is a progressive neurodegenerative condition caused by insufficient quantities of dopamine in the brain.
"For me I'm a person who needs to know about things and how they work so it was important I researched as best as I could," the 66-year-old says.
However, while Steve learnt about Parkinson's he wrapped a cone of silence around his condition for three years, telling only his family and close friends.
"It was a challenging time and a difficult time because you want to be quite secretive about it."
In 2016, Steve was invited to attend an Outward Bound course. As the owner of Stephen Parsons House of Travel, he was used to being constantly in touch and feeling important. But at Anakiwa he had to hand in his cellphone.
"It was the best thing I ever did because then I could engage myself in the event along with other people who had Parkinson's."
He kayaked, tackled high ropes, spent a night in the bush and swam in freezing-cold water. "We got cold and miserable but we had a great fraternity."
Steve found talking to strangers about such a personal matter as their Parkinson's journeys a fascinating revelation. When he came home, he shared his diagnosis and experiences with his fellow Rotarians.
"It's just one of these things, I have been dealt this card and will deal with it in the most positive way I can."
Parkinson's cannot be cured but it can be treated. "You lead a life as fulfilling as you wish it to be."
Steve's symptoms have progressed to shaking in his left arm and to a lesser extent in his left leg. Sometimes he stumbles when walking, sometimes his muscles stiffen and sometimes he has trouble sleeping.
"Each person's journey is different and separate."
Parkinson's is the fastest-growing neurological condition in the world. About 1 in 500 people have Parkinson's with the average age at diagnosis 59.
Steve says there are 166 people currently being supported in Manawatū.
Steve sold his business in 2019 and now does business mentoring through the Manawatū Chamber of Commerce. He is assisting with fundraising for Parkinson's Manawatū and is researching the Rotary Club of Palmerston North's history ahead of its centenary in 2024.
"I don't have time to be slow."
Family is his first priority - wife Julie, their four children, 12 grandchildren and one on the way. "The condition that I've got is not just about me, it's about my whole family."
In a few weeks, Steve will take part in a webinar with Hollywood actor Michael J Fox, who
was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991.
First though he's promoting the Red Tulip Walk on Sunday, World Parkinson's Day, and the Red Tulip Appeal on April 16-17 - look for collectors at supermarkets. Red Tulip walkers can choose a 5km or 7.5km loop starting at Paneiri Park in Awapuni. There'll be spot prizes, ice cream truck and sales tables.
"I don't want to be a person who is seen to be different and I've been self sufficient and focused and I intend to continue to be like that," Steve says. "It's just that I've got Parkinsons."
What: Red Tulip Walk
When: Sunday, April 11, 9am
Where: Paneiri Park car park
Tickets: $15 adults, $7.50 under 16s, from www.iticket.co.nz or phone Allison Smith on 027 661 5937.
For Parkinson's Manawatu information click here.