Cycling with Parkinson’s: A disease that forced Dejan to break the boundaries

Cycling with Parkinson’s: A disease that forced Dejan to break the boundaries

Cycling with Parkinson’s may seem impossible. Dejan Djuran, an avid mountaineer, had mountains deeply rooted in his life’s mission. However, dealing with undiagnosed Parkinson’s and diagnosing it years later meant he had to adapt. The E-bike came as a solution and significant cycling projects came to life.

You are primarily a mountaineer and hiker. Where does the love for mountains come from and how did the idea for the Facebook Group – Mountaineering with dogs come about?

The love for mountains came spontaneously, a long time ago, with the first dog in the family. From walks around the neighborhood, in the forest, through serious hiking trips, all the way to the alpine climbs. Over the years, the mountains have become my lifestyle, our lifestyle – work during the week for a weekend in the mountains. My wife, me and our dogs visited all the Croatian peaks and most of the Slovenian peaks. The mountains were our meaning in life, our family time and our shared obsession.
The founding of the Facebook group also happened spontaneously. As we already had years and years of experience behind us, we wanted to share it with others, but also to create a kind of base of ideas for all those who like hiking with dogs. The page started as a small group of great lovers of hiking with dogs. Now it is a large group of people who spend time outdoors with their four-legged pets. Our dogs have grown old in the meantime, one is no longer with us, and we fight our battles, but we are still the group admins. 😊

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When and how did you discover Parkinson’s disease? How did you notice the symptoms and how did you feel back then?

From the appearance of the first symptoms to the diagnosis, five long years passed. The first symptoms were spasms and braking of muscles and slight tremors. But I worked physically and such symptoms could also be from physical fatigue. In addition, at the age of 45, you already expect some signs of aging. I didn’t attach much importance to it in the beginning, but since they didn’t back down, I started doing tests. I have visited many different specialists over the years and no one could give me an answer to the question of what was going on. In the end, a test aimed at Parkinson’s disease confirmed the diagnosis.
The first reaction was, of course, shock. Such things always happen to someone else. And definitely in old age. But giving up or despairing was never an option for me. Everything takes time, so it took some time for me and my family to settle down. The hardest thing for me was that I had to stop working, and for our family that we had to give up our common mountains.

Soon you started cycling, so the project and website Living and cycling with Parkinson’s was created. How did the bicycle find its way into that story and what is the goal of the project?

The bike was a revelation. I’ve ridden a bike before, not so much as hiking and it was a normal bike. Due to the symptoms, riding such a bicycle as well as walking was no longer possible. And somehow just then, a friend visited me and offered me to try riding his electric bike. The moment I turned the pedal on that bike I knew it was the solution I was looking for. A solution for movement, a solution for hope and ultimately for a better mental and physical condition. Then an electric bicycle entered my life through a sponsor (Husqvarna), and the project Living and cycling with Parkinson’s was born (Facebook Page link).
The goal of the project is to raise awareness of living with the disease and promote the possibilities of people with neurodegenerative diseases.
Through the project, the maxim “Go here and now” was born, which later grew into the non-profit association. The point of the maxim is that unfortunately you understand some things only when you lose them, that’s the most important message I want to convey – don’t wait for tomorrow, go, here and now, because tomorrow may not exist.

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How was the Via Adriatica bicycle adventure last year?

Via Adriatica, or Adventure with Parkinson as we affectionately called it, was a turning point. I must admit that I was scared. And those routes and my illnesses. My son Luka went with me as support. And it was truly an adventure of a lifetime. You get on that bike and leave everything behind, only Parkinson and you remain in your everyday partnership. And just like with everything in life, sometimes it gets better, sometimes worse, but it goes, step by step or in this case turn by turn, day by day. On the route I felt after a long time that I was alive again. And more than that, it helped me get to know me, a different one, with the burden of the disease.

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You continued cycling with the excellent Forgotten Settlements project. Can you explain to the readers what this is all about?

With this project, we wanted to combine humanity and humanitarianism with the promotion of Parkinson’s. We focused on settlements that have only one active household registered according to the last population census. The idea came about because of the large number of ghost towns in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, where I regularly cycle, and the fact that there are parts of Croatia that are rapidly losing their (young) population. My wish is to point out that life exists, both with illness and with, for example, old age or with loneliness or isolation… I want to point out humanity.

You are planning a new project “From the Atlantic to the Black Sea”. What inspired you to do it and what can we expect?

The idea for this project came about due to pushing (my own) boundaries. After Via Adriatica, I cycled the Forrest Gump project, which did not have a firm goal, but some general goal was to cycle as far as possible. I passed through 7 countries and cycled 3.700 kilometers. There are 4.700 kilometers from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, so the boundaries are shifting again. In addition, through this project I connect with the organization Parkinson’s Europe – we want to promote life with Parkinson’s in all the countries through which the route goes, from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. Since its start is from France, the logistics and financial back-end are a big deal. In the end, logistically, I managed to arrange everything, but financially, I still haven’t covered everything to the end. But I’m going on a journey. We’re not here to give up, are we?

Can you recommend to our readers a destination that got you excited for cycling?

All the destinations I visited are special in their own way, they have that something. In Croatia, it is peninsula Peljesac and island Mljet. But Bosnia and Herzegovina delighted me, especially Lukomir and Lake Prokosko. Steep macadam roads lead to both destinations, but once you reach them, the delight is endless.
Lukomir is a mountain village located on the southern slopes of Bjelasnica at 1.495 meters above sea level, which makes it the highest inhabited place in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the only one above 1.300 m.
Lake Prokosko is located on the mountain Vranica, at 1.636 meters above sea level.

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And finally, do you have a message for all of us?

Go, here and now. If you don’t know how and where, join me and go with me – part of the way, one day if necessary. Just go for it.

Follow Dejan and support his journeys on Facebook and Instagram!

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