The scraggly signature of Abbotsford lawyer Bob Kuhn is less recognizable by the day. That’s one of the last tasks Kuhn still does by hand. Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2006, the 61-year-old no longer writes. Nor does he type on a keyboard.
Instead, he uses voice recognition software, one of the countless changes that his life has undergone in the last years.
Kuhn is one of six “everyday heroes” in a new documentary by the Parkinson Society British Columbia, called ‘Undefeated: An Intimate Portrait of Parkinson’s.’
The 60-minute film aims to show what it’s like to live with the degenerative disorder, and how day-to-day tasks mercilessly test a person’s positive outlook on life.
Although Kuhn may look like an ordinary guy, he has a quiet inner confidence and a high resistance to stress that has allowed him to adapt to the many humbling experiences of living with the disease. He describes the illness as an “intense and continuing midlife crisis” – an incessant tap on the shoulder, forever distracting from life.
“Everything changes. It’s not overly dramatic to say that everything changes. Because what starts to change is inside, in your head,” said Kuhn, who has practiced law at Kuhn LLP Legal Counsel in Abbotsford for over 20 years. “The biggest issue is loss of hope. Not just hope in the big fix, but hope everyday.”
It’s easy to want to turn inward when the newspaper Kuhn is reading rattles around like in an earthquake. Holding a spoon full of soup at an executive meeting, or tying a tie, or holding somebody’s hand for more than a few minutes, tries Kuhn’s patience in new ways.
Driving is a challenge as Kuhn ends up gripping the wheel to keep the tremor under control, which can stress and cramp the arm. His foot on the gas pedal will also jerk.
But Kuhn has converted even this into a positive. Instead of driving, he spends more time on his Honda Goldwing 1800cc, a big touring motorcycle that he says Harley Davidson riders refer to as a “couch on wheels.”
It’s more comfortable and easier to handle than a car, requiring just smooth curving movements and doesn’t cause Kuhn’s muscles to seize. The avid long-distance rider has recently donned his Kevlar jacket once again to hit the four corners of the continental United States.
Last year, Kuhn completed his first ever trip around the world. Over 10 weeks, he visited 17 countries to interview people living with Parkinson’s about what their experiences have been like. He also spoke with researchers and neurologists studying the disease, and blogged the whole trip at positivelyparkinsons.blogspot.ca.
“I thought I was going to slow down, but I guess I don’t know how to slow down. Maybe it’s that slowing down feels like I’m giving up,” Kuhn said.
In spite of the disease, Kuhn is busier now than he has ever been in his life. As of July 1, 2013, the Trinity Western University alumn has become the school’s interim president.
“I’m passionate about the school. I think it’s a fabulous place for students. The kind of environment that can’t be repeated,” he said.
Although his appointment is technically temporary, there is no scheduled end date for the man who has been involved with the school for four decades. He is so comfortable in its halls that students might see him sit down at their cafeteria table for a chat during lunch hour.
“I get so excited about what they’re learning, what they’re experiencing,” said Kuhn.
He brings that passion not just to TWU and to the law office, but to inspiring others with Parkinson’s to live with hope. Kuhn loves speaking with those who were recently diagnosed and in panic mode, assuring them it doesn’t have to be that bad.
“What spurs me on is to encourage others,” he said. “If I can feel comfortable in my own skin, despite the tremors, with the tremors, then I hope it helps other people feel comfortable.”
‘Undefeated’ is available on Shaw Cable’s Video on Demand from Sept. 26 until Dec. 30, firstname.lastname@example.org twitter.com/alinakonevski