Who is John Pepper?

I was born in 1934, in the English town of Harrow, which is famous for its public School. Harrow is now inside Greater London, but in those days, it was north of London. I started my schooling at the age of four, in Harrow. The Second World War started in 1939, before I turned five. I moved around a bit, due to the bombing, and had a narrow escape in 1940, when a landmine was dropped in the back garden of my home, and landed in a thick hawthorn hedge, and failed to explode. Had it exploded, I would not be here to tell the tale. My parents decided to leave Harrow in 1942, and moved to the country, away from the bombing. I went to nine different schools, before I gained entrance to another public school, in Winchester, at the age of ten, after passing a scholarship. I was then, at least two years younger than most of the boys in the class. That turned out to be a major mistake in my education. I found it impossible to settle amongst those, much older boys, and consequently became a loner, mainly due to the  bullying I continuously endured for the first two years. I finished school at the age of sixteen, when my father thought that I was old enough to help support my family.

My first job was as an office boy in a bank in Winchester. After one year, I applied for a transfer to an overseas branch of the bank, which turned out to be in Johannesburg, South Africa. There I worked for a further four years, during which I passed all but two of the exams for my Institute of Banker’s Diploma. My elder brother persuaded me to join his employers, Burroughs Machines Ltd, selling adding machines. I did not enjoy selling, but finished up in that company, running the third branch I had established, in the city of Kimberley, which is famous for its diamonds. There I married Shirley Hitchcock, and we had two children. In 1963, I started a new printing business, in partnership with Eric Sulter. That business grew very quickly, until I moved to Johannesburg in 1970, where I started another continuous stationery printing business, while Eric continued to run the Kimberley company.

My Parkinson’s symptoms started in 1963, when I found that I was unable to throw a ball properly. I had never had this problem before, but did not talk to anybody about it. This was followed very quickly by other symptoms, such as the inability to write properly, constipation and chest infections. Then in the seventies I suffered from chronic depression and speech problems, together with other movement problems, such as dropping things and spilling my food. I was finally diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1992, when I had started to walk badly, while dragging one leg and shuffling my feet.

In 1960, I had an accident, on-stage, lifting a dancer. I prolapsed a disc in my lower back. After ten years of pain and suffering, I was advised to do exercise to strengthen my back muscles. This helped me overcome the back problems, until 1977, when I had the offending disc removed. From then onwards, right up till today, I have done regular exercise, mainly aerobic walking these days. I also have been going to the gym, on and off for over forty years. I am not a lover of exercise, but I am very grateful for what it has done for me, since I started in 1970.

There were three unusual situations regarding my Pd history. I was bodily, very fit, which was not very common amongst Pd patients at the time of diagnosis; In 1994 I was prescribed a monotherapy of an MAO-b inhibitor, which stops the natural breakdown of dopamine, in the brain, which gives us the use of a greater amount of our own dopamine; I did not take any levodopa medication after the first two years of being diagnosed, which was extremely unusual; I gave up my high-powered job within three months of diagnosis, which relieved me of an enormous amount of stress; Many patients are not in the position to lose a large amount of their monthly income, as I was prepared to do. 

All three of these circumstances have been responsible, in my opinion, for my good health today. Energetic exercise causes the brain to produce a substance called GDNF (Glial Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which repairs the damaged brain cells. This was proved by scientists and announced to the Parkinson’s world in 2006, in Washington DC, at the 1st World Parkinson's Cingress. The medication has also been independently proven to help slow down or even reverse Parkinson’s. From this you will see that doctors and scientists have known for many years that there is a lot we can do to help us overcome Pd. It does not appear to be in their interests to tell us this.

Because I no longer need to take any Patrkinson;'s medication and I live a normal life, I feel that I have to tell the world about my good fortune, and hope that others will follow in my footsteps. I am now seventy-nine, in 2014 and hope to live a normal life for many more years to come.

John Pepper 2014