Although the term “It’s Just Parkinson’s” includes the word ‘Parkinson’s’, IJP is evolving into something much broader. IJP is quickly becoming a movement and it’s John’s hope that people from all walks of life may embrace it.
John sees IJP as a rock, a light, a beacon of hope, the place someone goes to regroup and to settle against a storm. You don’t have to have Parkinson’s disease to live by IJP. Although the IJP mindset stems from IJP, and is nurtured by IJP, John distinguishes it as a warrior attitude. After someone has been nurtured by IJP, they may then take that sustenance and development and turn it into an aggressor against any challenge.
Each day brings new challenges; some days we are faced with circumstances that feel overwhelming. Whatever hurdle may present itself, whether it’s something major such as a health issue (as in John’s case), the breakdown of a relationship, stress at work, financial woes or even dealing with a difficult person, it’s John’s hope that people may turn to and find inspiration and comfort in the IJP ethos.
In 2015 John Cullen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. An avid athlete his whole life, John has participated in over 100 running and cycling races, and over a dozen obstacle races. After his Parkinson’s diagnosis, physical exercise became crucial. In 2019 John started powerlifting. To his surprise he discovered that lifting heavy weights stressed his central nervous system, which helped set back some of his Parkinson’s symptoms. Although not a cure for Parkinson’s, John finds that frequent powerlifting exercises allow him to control some of the symptoms associated with the disease.
In Greek mythology, Atlas was the Titan god condemned to hold up the heavens for all eternity and he is depicted as holding a large sphere on his shoulders. Atlas symbolizes the endurance and strength of people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and the tremendous amount of weight they have to carry while battling this incurable disease. The IJP logo shows Atlas holding up those three letters, I-J-P. It’s a reminder that even when you feel that you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, you need to keep lifting, stay strong and never stop fighting.
Not letting something define you does not mean that you won’t emerge changed. All major life experiences mold us in one way or another; sometimes it’s obvious and other times it’s subtle. Change is inevitable and it’s important to embrace it on your own terms.
John has worked very hard not to let his Parkinson’s diagnosis change him, but it has changed him. The important distinction is that John chooses to be in the driver’s seat of his life’s journey. We all have this choice; we just need to be brave enough to believe it.
Some people may be surprised to hear someone who is battling Parkinson’s disease (and we use the word ‘battle’ purposely because it is a fight) say, “It’s Just Parkinson’s”. John is aware that in his lifetime this disease will take a lot from him- metaphorically but also quite literally. By saying “It’s Just Parkinson’s” this is John’s technique for being in control of his psyche. We understand that this attitude may sound unorthodox, but the IJP approach is a new way of thinking that John has nurtured and honed over many years; it didn’t sprout overnight. John realizes that not everyone who is struggling with this disease is able to give Parkinson’s the middle finger- at least not yet. Every person has their own journey, this happens to be John’s. Image of a beakon of hope