Need to know
Name: Bruce Ballard
In the tenth in our series profiling the bloggers supporting the World Parkinson Congress 2019, we talk to US blogger Bruce Ballard. He discusses the “shock” of his blog going viral, how he wrote 150 haikus for Parkinson’s – and why he’s taken up ping pong
Can you describe yourself in one sentence?
I’m trying to stay an outgoing, active, fun-loving guy despite the roadblocks that Parkinson’s tosses at me.
Do you have a particular audience in mind when you’re writing?
Not really. I write primarily because I enjoy it – and I’m delighted when others are interested too. For example, in April the World Parkinson Congress held a haiku contest. I submitted 13 poems, and then thought: “Why stop there?” So I challenged myself to compose 150 haikus about Parkinson’s, and I posted 100 of them on my blog. I was thrilled every time I came up with a new haiku – things like that drive me to keep writing.
Is there an aspect of Parkinson’s that you’re most passionate about?
Yes, there are two aspects. Firstly, Parkies need to stay as physically active as possible. I’ve blogged a lot about the benefits of exercise. My website includes a calendar where I track all my workouts. I’m 65 years old and still compete in open-water swim races and I’ve also taken up ping-pong.
Secondly, I’m a big believer in immersing yourself in an enriched environment, so I post a lot of artwork, poetry and music. After I was diagnosed, I gave myself the challenge of writing sonnets and other poems in iambic pentameter. I found it to be an enjoyable mental challenge.
How widely read is your blog and in which countries?
It depends on the particular post. Some have a low turnout, but sometimes I publish something that goes viral – and I get hundreds or thousands of visitors from over 60 countries.
Have you been surprised by the level of interest you’ve attracted?
Yes, it’s shocking when I see that over a thousand people have read something I posted.
Need to know
Name: Bruce Ballard
Which of your posts has attracted the most interest from your readers?
A post called ‘What’s it like having Parkinson’s?’ It had over 6,000 visits in five days, from 67 different countries.
Which has been the most controversial?
‘Gay, with Parkinson’s. What are the issues?’ I think I went out on a limb with this post, but the topic remains important.
Talk us through your routine: when do you find time to blog?
Unfortunately, I only find time to write on the weekend. I have a full-time job Monday to Friday, and after work I try to hit the gym or go swimming. On Saturday mornings I sit down to write – and I polish and publish my work on Sunday afternoon. Of course, some of my longer articles take more time.
What physical challenges do you face in writing?
My drugs keep both of my hands limber and able to type – so I have no problems there.
What do you hope people will take away from reading your blog?
That life can still be fun if you have Parkinson’s, and that there’s still plenty to see and do in the world. In one of my poems, I wrote: “The urge to do things helps me counteract/ The ravage of PD. Now that’s a fact.” I think people should keep on doing things that interest them.
How did you get involved with the World Parkinson Congress?
I applied to be a blogger for the World Parkinson Congress in Portland and I was accepted. I can’t recall how I learned about the blogger application.
Can you share any memorable moments from the last one you attended?
It was thrilling to be in the same room as researchers and to hear their presentations. That was intellectually stimulating. I also met a lot of Parkies who, like me, like to have fun. It was a wonderful, uplifting week.
What are you most looking forward to at WPC2019?
I lived in Japan for three years, so I’m keen to return. I’m also hungry for the academic sessions, reconnecting with friends – and making new ones!
For more information on Parkinson’s and exercise please visit Parkinson’s Europe website.
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