• Sharing Mayo Clinic

    Parkinson’s diagnosis is next challenge for endurance athlete

Jamie Bryson competing in a triathlon

Editor's note: the following was submitted by patient, Jamie Bryson

I am Jamie Bryson. I just turned 40 years old in April of this year. In April of 2021, I was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's disease. I am an endurance athlete. I regularly compete in Ironman and other triathlon events, road cycling events and mountain biking events.

I live in the Dallas area with my wife, three boys (ages 12, 9 and 4), and two dogs. In November 2021, shortly after my diagnosis, I also discovered that I had a mass on my kidney and underwent surgery to have it removed in December.

The mass was cancer, but it was caught super early, so I did not need any further treatment beyond surgery.

I developed a very strong, disruptive tremor in my left leg in March 2021 that led me to a neurologist who diagnosed me with YOPD (young-onset Parkinson's disease). This was an extremely difficult diagnosis for me and my family.

Being told you have Parkinson's at age 39 when you are working to support a family is devastating. I immediately had a picture in my mind of what the disease looks like in older people, and I wondered how long I would be able to live a somewhat "normal" life.

I decided to apply to Mayo Clinic because I wanted a doctor who would support me and help me continue pursuing my goals as an endurance athlete. I also wanted to be involved in cutting-edge research and participate in clinical trials. I wanted a doctor who would be as aggressive as I am in fighting this disease.

I found what I was looking for at Mayo. The facilities are top-notch and the people there are all incredible. I have told people that Mayo is like the Disney World of hospitals. All the nurses and techs that I interacted with were very friendly and made me feel cared for.

Dr. Rodolfo Savica is exactly the doctor I was hoping to find. I cannot even express to you how much he changed my life just by meeting with me and talking to me. I found hope at Mayo Clinic.

I found a doctor who I know is in my corner and who is supportive and encourages me to go after my dreams. He took an interest in me and assured me that he is going to do everything he can to figure out how to slow down or stop this disease.

I know my journey at Mayo has just begun, and hopefully, I will get to return to participate in an exciting clinical trial in the near future.

I left Mayo with hope that I am going to be OK, and I will be able to live my life and do the things that I want to do for a long time.

Jamie Bryson

I left Mayo with a totally different outlook on my life with Parkinson's. I left Mayo with hope that I am going to be OK, and I will be able to live my life and do the things that I want to do for a long time.

I also left with hope that there are people working very hard to find a way to stop this disease, and I feel like there will be a treatment that will be available to me at some point in the not-too-distant future.

One of the things that Dr. Savica and I discussed was how I was going to use the medication to help me compete in endurance events. We made a medication plan for me to use when I am racing.

I was at Mayo in February of this year. On April 3 of this year, I competed in an Ironman 70.3 in Galveston, Texas. That is a 1.2 miles swim, a 56-mile bike and a half-marathon, all back to back. I am happy to report that I finished that race with a respectable time of 6:34.

Since completing the Ironman 70.3, I have been training for my next race, which is the Leadville 100, also known as The Race Across the Sky, a 100-mile mountain bike race across the high-altitude, extreme terrain of the Colorado Rockies, which will take place Aug. 13.

I can't think of a better way for me to keep climbing than attempting to ride my mountain bike 100 miles with a total elevation gain of over 13,000 feet at high altitude. This is the race of all races.

Before I went to Mayo, I felt frustrated that doctors didn't see me as more than just a set of symptoms to manage. I did not feel that way at all at Mayo Clinic. The doctors and staff there made me feel seen, and I felt cared for as a whole person.

If you are not happy with the care you are receiving, or you want a second opinion, then you should seek out the best, and Mayo is the best. Mayo has changed my life, and I think that it could change yours, too.