TAKING back control not only of their bodies but of others’ negative perception of their illness will be sufferers’ goal during Parkinson’s Awareness Week.

The campaign, which will launch in Swindon on Sunday, sets out to educate the public on the many faces of the condition in a bid to promote acceptance and foster much-needed tolerance.

Although it affects more than 350 people in Swindon, the degenerative and progressive disease remains largely misunderstood. It is commonly associated with uncontrollable tremors but the extent of its impact on sufferers is widely unknown.

Freezing on the spot, suddenly becoming unable to put one foot in front of the other, losing the ability to communicate, muscle stiffness and difficulties eating and drinking as jaw muscles stop functioning properly are some of the many struggles patients face on a daily basis.

As part of the week of action the Swindon branch of Parkinson’s UK will shed light on the complex condition, break down taboos and myths surrounding it and encourage sufferers to regain as much control of their bodies as possible through exercise.

Dave Hartley, the group’s vice chairman, who was diagnosed with the condition five years ago, said: “It’s about educating the general public about the symptoms so they are more patient with people with Parkinson’s.”

The 69-year-old of Park South added: “The vast majority of people can’t recognise it. They think we are drunk sometimes when we freeze at the till and they get impatient.”

Chairman Dave Logan, 66, of Liden, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10 years ago, swam nearly the length of the English Channel ahead of Parkinson’s Awareness Week. He will complete his final half kilometre at Blunsdon House Leisure Club on Tuesday at 1pm to raise funds towards the group’s new balance and exercise class.

“We want people with Parkinson’s to take back control by being active and not sitting back and thinking ‘I have Parkinson’s and it’s the end of it’,” he said. “There is no cure but exercise slows down the progression of the condition. “We also want to take back control by giving the public the right information and hopefully they will become more understanding and people with Parkinson’s won’t get abused.

“People with Parkinson’s often feel isolated but we want them to know there is help out there.”

The group will hold information events at the Swindon Designer Outlet – complete with African drumming – on Sunday, April between 10am and 5pm; Swindon Central Library on Monday from 9am to 5pm; Stratton Leisure Centre between 9am and 5pm on Wednesday; and at the Great Western Hospital main reception area on Thursday, also from 9am and 5pm.

The week will culminate with a re-enactment of the difficult situations people with Parkinson’s find themselves in and the abuse they often receive from the public as a result, including getting stuck at ticket barriers and struggling to eat in restaurants.

The simulations will take place in Wharf Green on Saturday, April 12 between 12.30pm and 1.30pm and The Parade from 2.15pm until 3.15pm.

To donate to Dave Logan visit http://www.justgiving.com/David-Logan8