It's five o'clock in the morning and I've been awake since three, one of the more discombobulating dimensions of international travel. But before you get the wrong end of the stick and feel that I'm about to parade a sundrenched holiday in the Seychelles before you, let me assure you this is business.
I'm here in Montréal for the Third World Parkinson Congress, a triennial gathering of all the great and the good in the fields of Parkinson's. That's everybody from the top professors down to, well, us lot in the trenches – people with Parkinson's. It' a time when the entire. community pulls together. The congresses are infrequent enough that each is special yet still sufficiently closely spaced that delegates remember each other's names from previous encounters. Rather like a shaky version of Oberammergau I imagine.
It's fair to say that I have never been so excited about a scientific meeting before. Not even when I was an active scientist rather than the muttering Brando-esque "I could've been a contender" figure you see today.
The last meeting in Glasgow was life changing and to be honest I think people expect nothing less from this one.
But this meeting is different from its forerunners. I've only been here a matter of hours but there is already the feeling of something in the air, the notion that something is going to happen . Nobody is sure what. Just something.
Will it be a new scientific breakthrough announced? Maybe some huge new understanding of the pathology of Parkinson's? Or perhaps a greater communication between the patients and scientists of what it is like to experience this condition? Nobody knows yet. But that buzz is definitely in the air. And the sense that maybe, just maybe, we the patients will leave this congress with genuine scientifically-founded cause for optimism rather than blind hope. Would that be too much to ask?