Jon Lessin Dreams Bigger Because of Parkinson’s

Jon Lessin

Written by Jon Lessin for the Davis Phinney Foundation Dream Big series

What does “dreaming big” mean to you?

I thought I had dreamt big already.  

As a physician, my daily fulfillment came from helping people. I was very proud of my career as a cardiac anesthesiologist.  After my diagnosis of Parkinson’s, this desire for fulfillment kept me working, as long as I felt it safe to do so. I worked for six years post diagnosis, received DBS and then worked four more.

I thought I had dreamt big already, but I hadn’t.

With the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, came a realization that my physical abilities would be limited in some ways. Not all ways but certainly some. With that realization came a desire to test my boundaries and see what I could do. Dreaming bigger happened for me because of the adversity.

I have Davis Phinney and the Foundation to thank for my newly found interest in cycling. Sitting on the couch recovering from my DBS surgery, I became interested in a cover story on Davis, the father of Taylor Phinney who was cycling in the Beijing Olympics. Davis had just received DBS implantation, like I had, and he was touting the benefits of that as well as the benefits of cycling. As a result of hearing his story, I got off the couch and purchased my first ever road bike with a goal of cycling 1000 miles that year to benefit the Davis Phinney Foundation. I logged 3000 miles in the first year, and within the next five, I managed to finish four century rides.

In 2013, I was encouraged by the Davis Phinney Foundation to participate in Ride the Rockies. This was to be 500 miles and 4000 feet of elevation change in one week. My initial reaction was that this challenge would be too big to tackle. However, through the encouragement of people at the Foundation and a lot of preparation, I decided to go for it.  My internal motto throughout the ride was to just keep turning over the pedals as long as I was able.

I completed that ride. Every last mile of it. I don’t think I ever would’ve attempted it if I didn’t have Parkinson’s. The limitations of this disease constantly encourage me to find new ways to dream big. It’s possible that what I can no longer accomplish in my career has been balanced by the fulfillment I receive by overcoming challenges, accomplishing big goals and connecting with organizations like the Davis Phinney Foundation.

I wrote a book about the tenacity created from the adversity that comes with having Parkinson’s. Publishing my memoir, TENACITY, may be just one more big dream created through adversity.

Wanna join us for a ride?

Are you into cycling? Maybe you'd like to join us for a ride this year as well. Learn more about our upcoming cycling fundraising events for the Davis Phinney Foundation here

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