As a proud sponsor of 24 Foundation, Cigna hosts the Go with Cigna contest each year, where they urge riders to share how participating with 24 Foundation have helped them reach a health or wellness goal. Last year’s winner was Charlotte rider, Gary Wooten.
At 27 years old Gary was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a disorder that affects motor skills. There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are medications, surgery and multidisciplinary management that can offer relief from symptoms. Five years after the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, Gary was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Fighting both disorders throughout his life has not been easy, but Gary has stayed positive. This year in April Gary turned 60 years old and is a proud fighter and survivor of Parkinson’s disease and cancer.
In 2006, Gary underwent one of his treatments for Parkinson’s disease, a brain surgery to install a deep brain stimulator (DBS). The procedure is common in patients with Parkinson’s disease, as it can deactivate parts of the brain that cause the disease and associated symptoms without damaging the brain. The day before the surgery, Gary got a call from his sister Connie, announcing that his brother-in-law Jim had lost his life to renal carcinoma.
“I immediately told her [Connie] I would postpone my surgery,” said Gary Wooten, Charlotte rider. “But Connie and Jim had discussed this possibility, and Jim had told Connie that he wanted me to go ahead with the surgery no matter what happened. Jim was an engineer by training and had been fascinated with the DBS procedure and was persistent that I needed to get it done.”
The results of the surgery were dramatic for Gary. As with many other patients, the surgery provides relief from a full range of the disease’s symptoms, such as walking difficulty, stiffness, rigidity and slowness of movement.
As a way of honoring Jim, Jim’s friends, who were Charlotte residents created the Baginski team and participated in 24 Foundation. Gary joined the team shortly after it was created and has rode in the memory of his brother-in-law ever since.
“Cycling is one of the best ways for me to manage Parkinson’s disease,” Gary said. “My participation in 24 Foundation has reaffirmed my enjoyment of cycling. I have Jim to thank for achieving this health goal.”
This year Gary is looking forward to riding close to his goal of 25 miles, seeing old friends and meeting the people involved with 24 Foundation. Most of all, Gary is happy that he is even able to participate to honor his brother-in-law Jim.
“Every year when I ride that first lap I can’t help but to think of Jim,” Gary said. “He would have participated in this event right of the bat for anyone.”