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Racing against Parkinson's: a mother's story

posted Jun 3, 2014, 8:46 PM by Dianne James   [ updated Sep 29, 2014, 1:11 AM ]

HIGHLANDS RANCH – Better than most, Nancy Ivankoe could tell you that in life, and on the bike, there are highs and there are lows.

The greatest challenges of her life have been overcome through cycling, and this last year she has been training for the biggest climb of her life.

"When I'm on the bike, I just feel free. I don't feel like there's any problem in the world," Ivankoe says, "On the descents, it's beyond what I can describe."

The single mom of two girls lives with Parkinson's Disease - and she's not even fifty years old.

In 1978, Roy Edward Ivankoe was told he had Parkinson's Disease. At the time, his daughter Nancy was just a teenager.

The family had never even heard of the neurological disease.

As Nancy grew up, she and her three siblings watched her father's health decline. Roy developed dementia.

As her father headed towards what would be his final descent, Nancy was climbing 80 miles over three Colorado mountain passes – for him.

She was participating in the Copper Triangle bike race, a fundraiser for the Davis Phinney Foundation.

"I just got this energy from, I don't know where, I was just, I had my dad in my mind, and I just cranked up Vail pass like it was nothing," Ivankow recalls.

When she got down the pass, she realized what she had done.

She had won the race.

"It was very rewarding to feel like I had a victory for my dad," she says.

That climb in 2007 would not be Nancy's hardest. That would come four years later.

"When we lost my dad in 2011, I didn't disclose this to anybody, but I was pretty sure that's where I was headed," Ivankoe said.

Nancy was 46 when she lost her dad. At the same time, she was also losing herself.

"I had observed muscle jerkiness or twitchiness my right arm was swinging less and less, I was starting to trip more," Ivankoe says.

She saw a specialist. Her diagnosis was early onset Parkinson's Disease.

"I went through all the emotions of denial and sadness and hurt and anger and grief," Ivankoe says.

She had to tell her two girls.

"The most difficult part… was telling my daughters. And the impact that would have on them," she said, "They only knew my dad as an older man in a wheelchair. He had dementia. And I didn't want them to relate my diagnosis to my dad."

Once again, she found solace in the saddle.

"There's no way to predict what symptoms you'll have, how fast or slow you'll progress. What you can do is make a choice to take it day by day and live well today," Ivankoe says.

Beginning June 7, she'll be back at it, riding again with the Davis Phinney Foundation team at 'Ride the Rockies.'

Ivankoe lives her life finding the small victory in each day.

"I feel my dad's presence with me in a very comforting, spiritual way," Ivankoe says.

During this ride, each day itself will be a victory, and not just for her father.

It will be a victory for herself.

To support Nancy in her goal to raise $10,000, click here.

For more information on the Davis Phinney Foundation, which focuses on helping people with Parkinson's Disease live well each day, visit

Exercise has been clinically proven to help Parkinson's Disease patients.

Ivankoe helps facilitate spin and exercise classes for people with Parkinson's Disease and their families ( and volunteers with the Colorado Neurological Institute (