When Diane Trestrail was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease almost a decade ago, she was shocked.
"I said 'oh no, only men get that'."
It is true that more men than women get the disease, but over the last decade Diane has learned a lot about the disease. She knows the statistics.
QUEEN'S BIRTHDAY HONOURS:
Diane has also formed the Armidale Parkinson's Encouragement Group, and now she has received an Order of Australia Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for service to people living with Parkinson's.
"I know 40-odd people in Armidale with Parkinson's," Diane said. "It's a lot, and that's only the ones that I know, so there are a lot more around."
While humble about her work, Diane said she accepted the OAM to help shine a spotlight on Parkinson's Disease.
"Cancer, breast cancer, all those things they're not romantic but they get people's sympathy."
But because about 80 per cent of people with Parkinson's are aged over 60, she said it has been seen as a disease affecting old people, and gained less attention.
"It's tragic for the young ones," she said. "Their working years are going to be cut short, in all probability. But if people get old and get decrepit, nobody's going to take any notice."
But the disease does affect 80,000 people in Australia, Diane said.
"There's 37 people diagnosed each day in Australia, and it's increasing at four per cent each year."
When Diane was first diagnosed with Parkinson's, she was encouraged to take it easy, but she said she soon realised that exercise was vital, especially early in the diagnosis.
"People said just go home and rest, so I did. And it got worse," Diane said.
When her daughter took her to see a specialist in Brisbane, she discovered the benefit of exercise, saying she was hobbling when she arrived but came out walking probably.
She later went to a rehabilitation centre in Sydney, which specialised in Parkinson's rehabilitation therapy and had a program called PD Warrior.
"I did that, just for one week, which was very expensive, but it was worth it, and came home convinced that exercise was the answer."
There was no support group in Armidale, and it was advice from her doctor to start the group that could encourage each other.
"My GP said you better get one going," Diane said.
"The physio at Rusden Street Medical, she started up an exercise group which also formed the nucleus of the group."
Once a month the group continues to meet, with all the members making a donation to cover the hire costs of Legacy House.
"We usually have a guest speaker to teach us something about treatment, or there's all sorts of things that help. Dance, exercise, boxing, marching to music - Alan Alda was the one who put me onto marching to music."
Actor Alan Alda, who starred in M*A*S*H revealed he had Parkinson's two years ago.
"He said that he goes around the house marching to music," Diane said.
In the meantime, she said people with Parkinson's become very dependent on drugs.
"The drugs keep the brain shooting messages to the muscles. And if you don't have the drugs your muscles don't work."
Diane said she takes three different medications each day to treat Parkinson's.
"That's our life. Once you get to a certain stage you can't function without the Parkinson's drugs," she said.