Parkinson's Disease is described as incurable, but not terminal, by doctors. In the words of one doctor, 'the best way to see it is as just a damn nuisance.' As symptoms include being unable to stop shaking, or being unable to move, as well as breathing difficulties, impairment or loss of speech, difficulty swallowing and sleeping, many sufferers would class PD as slightly more than a nuisance, to say the least.
However, it is this kind of understated comment and wry humour that Mike Broadbent brings to this story of his life and to his Parkinson's story, to tales of experimental drug regimes, travelling and exploring even while stricken with those symptoms, and even to cutting edge brain surgery to attempt to alleviate his condition.
Mike was one of the last generations to be educated in the classic English style; boarding school at eight years old with a physical regime perhaps more suited to army basic training than young children, then on to another established English institution before finally studying at Cambridge, with impressive results.
But then… 'What next?' Ironically, Mike's retelling of his post Cambridge years is more fraught with existential questioning than his diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease; his inability to 'get on' outside of English institutions as poignant as his struggle to continue with day to day life despite his symptoms.
In this beautifully written account of his life, Mike also explains how the plane ride to Hong Kong did more for him than years of soul searching, because in escaping overseas he found a new life and a new love, and the perfect role for his skills.
There is so much irony in Mike's story, not least that he was based in Hong Kong when he started to learn the truth about his birth parents, having been adopted in a time before such things were openly discussed or recorded. And that through his adventures and challenges after developing Parkinson's Disease, Mike would come to understand the world differently once more, and confront one of his greatest fears: abandonment.
Typed at times with just one finger, as Mike's condition progressed, this book is a testament to the author's indomitable spirit, as well as a tribute to his wife, Joyce, who published her companion book of poetry 'From The Heart' in December 2018, when Mike's book was finally finished and published privately.
Mike Broadbent passed away in February 2019.
Joyce Chiu Broadbent, his widow, has published this second edition of his work for a public audience, for those suffering from Parkinson's Disease, for those struggling to care for their loved ones, for those who have suffered from the trauma of adoption and indeed anyone asking of their life right now, 'What next?'
Reviews for "Getting On, Falling Off"
'I was mesmerised by the quality of his writing and the sad but beautiful patterns that his life had woven. It is outstanding with its major themes of adoption and second abandonment at boarding school. I am deeply moved by the poignancy of the writing and the modesty and honesty that he brought to his self-descriptions. It details his ordeal in the most heart-breaking way. The various literary references were not only apposite to the text but also a condiment to the theme of his deep love and extraordinary grasp of English literature.' Peter Dix
'Wonderful - unputdownable. He wrote so beautifully and Joyce's poetry is a heartfelt "extra".' N M
'A fascinating story and his language sings and dances. At times I was incredibly moved, at other times awestruck at his achievements - at all times I was engrossed.' Caroline Jenkins
Mike Broadbent was born in Oxford in 1954 to an ill-fated couple who were not able to bring him up. He was swiftly adopted by a loving and caring Yorkshire family.
From then on Mike's family life, schooling and university education were entirely appropriate for a middle class child of the time, although always shaped on his part by an incredible drive and work ethic. This trait was accentuated and focused by Sedbergh School, which had a formative influence on him including instilling a fierce sense of competition. There he acquired a love of rugby and English literature both of which were lifelong passions. He thrived at Cambridge University reading English. He coupled academic brilliance with a colossal appetite for work, which resulted in a Double First and the highest awards for his achievements. He was the best that Cambridge could produce, but even he discovered the difficulties of 'What next?'
He found the answer in Hong Kong with a career-defining role as head of public relations at HSBC. It was a time of massive flux for HSBC and Hong Kong. He helped transition the bank to London and communicate the changes in business that the 1997 handover to China would bring. He rose to every professional challenge and opportunity again harnessing his Herculean capacity for work. However he still found time, somehow, to travel and see the world, and meet the love of his life - Joyce Chiu.
He was a victim of his own success and was asked by HSBC to return to London. Although desperately sad to leave his beloved Hong Kong, he prepared to take on an exciting new chapter as head of the HSBC Group Corporate Affairs Department, a massive global responsibility.
However, all future plans were catastrophically upended by a diagnosis of early onset Parkinson's Disease. He now faced the biggest challenge of his life. Described as incurable, but not terminal, PD, as he and Joyce came to call it, dominated the last chapters of his life, but could not prevent his determination to exercise his independence, discover the truth about his birth, participate in difficult medical trials and to write this book.
In the last five years of his life, he found it a challenge to make himself understood because his speech was so slurred, and he had to type with one finger. His life had shaped him to rise above every difficulty and nowhere was this better demonstrated than by the way he took on the last years of his life. He never once lapsed into self-pity, but met PD with every strength he had, aided by Joyce who was at his side throughout and a constant source of care, concern and comfort.
Throughout all his suffering, his unquenchable and supreme sense of wit and humour shone through. Mike's book was first published privately for friends and family in 2018. In the same year Joyce published her companion book of poetry, From The Heart. Both books sat under the Christmas tree that year, the third Christmas they shared since doctors had told them to expect no more. Mike Broadbent died on February 21st, 2019.
About the Author
Chapter 1 - The Background
Chapter 2 - Catherine's Story
Chapter 3 - My Childhood
Chapter 4 - Boyhood
Chapter 5 - Dura Virum Nutrix
Chapter 6 - Cambridge
Chapter 7 - After Cambridge
Chapter 8 - Hong Kong
Chapter 9 - London
Chapter 10 - Things Fall Apart
Chapter 11 - Epilogue
The Water's Edge
Explanation of Terms/Glossary