Reaching the halfway point on the difficult climb up Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak, retired firefighter Alan Simcox wasn’t sure he’d be able to continue – as symptoms of the Parkinson’s disease he’s living with set in.
However, he says he was determined to complete his dream while he still could, and to thank us for the support he’s received in recent years.
With that in mind, he powered on and completed the epic challenge with his former fire service colleagues by his side in July. Here, he’s shared what inspired the climb…
“I spent 30 years in West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, and enjoyed every one. However, I started noticing some issues with my movement around 5-10 years ago,” says Alan.
“It was my wife that really noticed something was wrong, I was moving a lot slower, but no-one could explain it – and I was even told at one point that it wasn’t Parkinson’s.
“I started having a lot of anxiety around 2021, linked to the symptoms I was seeing and not having a diagnosis. That’s what pushed me to get in touch with The Fire Fighters Charity.
“I was offered a stay at Harcombe House which was really good. I was in a small group and we did a lot of workshops and exercise sessions, I was really impressed with it. Being out walking and working physically, alongside the mental health workshops, was a great combination. I found it really helpful.
“For me, it was almost a taster session for a lot of things – things like Tai Chi and pool aerobics, which I may never have tried. I can then continue all that at home.”
Following his stay, Alan went on to retire from the fire service in March 2022 and almost exactly a year later, he finally received a diagnosis to explain the symptoms he’d been living with. He had Parkinson’s disease.
“Parkinson’s is something I had considered but nothing can prepare you for a definite diagnosis,” says Alan. “Initially I struggled to process and come to terms with my diagnosis, believing that my life would spiral out of control immediately.
“It’s good for me to know I have The Fire Fighters Charity there for me for life”
“However, after months of support and care from family, friends and the Parkinson’s community, life now feels positive again. At present there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but it is proven that with constant exercise and well managed medication, symptoms can be reduced.”
He adds: “It’s good for me, living with Parkinson’s, to know I have The Fire Fighters Charity there for me for life. I’d consider going just for a break to be honest, I loved my time at Harcombe.”
Having also received support from Parkinson’s UK, Alan wanted to plan a fundraising challenge for both of us, as a thank you, and he recalled a dream he’d had 25 years ago to climb the Three Peaks.
“It’s something I attempted with a small group of firefighters 25 years ago, but unfortunately due to injuring myself while climbing, I wasn’t able to finish the challenge,” says Alan. “I was determined to complete this challenge this time with my sons and some of the original team, while I still have the ability.”
The climb took a total of 5.5 hours to get up and down, and Alan says spending that time with colleagues he hadn’t worked with for years was particularly moving – and reaffirmed the strong team spirit within the fire services community.
“Most of them have retired now, and both my sons joined us too,” says Alan.
“It was very steep, very wet. It was a lot, lot harder than I expected. I got about halfway and my Parkinson’s was starting to kick in. It became very difficult, and even more difficult coming down.
“I didn’t think I was going to get up there to be honest, but it was incredible teamwork, stemming from us all being ex or current fire service, and we made it.”
Alan and the team raised an amazing £2,965 which will be split between us and Parkinson’s UK. You can add to that total by supporting their fundraiser here.
If you feel you’d benefit from our health and wellbeing support, we may be able to help you. Call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or register for My Fire Fighters Charity now and visit the ‘Access Support’ tab.
You can also join our ‘Share Your Story’ Group in the app, by clicking on the ‘Groups’ tab, to chat to others who have received our support or enquire about sharing your own story.