JUST two years ago, former Swindon Town Reserves footballer Frank Hanks was fighting fit and ranked number 17 in the country for squash.
But after being diagnosed with a rare form of Parkinsons disease called multiple system atrophy (MSA), Frank, 63, has seen his health rapidly deteriorate in recent months.
He is now living in The Orchards nursing home in Wroughton and has been told he does not have long to live.
To raise money for Parkinsons UK and awareness of Frank’s disease, 16-year-old family friend Tom Walters will be jumping from a plane 10,000 feet above ground level this weekend.
So far, Ridgeway School sixth-former Tom, of Wroughton, has raised more than £400 thanks to the kindness of family and friends and those in Swindon who know popular Frank.
“I think it is brilliant that he is doing it,” said Frank.
“Not many people have heard of MSA, I hadn’t either, but I was diagnosed in January last year and have been told that this is my year.
“I’m not particularly in a lot of pain but I have to take a lot of tablets so I rattle when I walk.”
Frank, who played for Swindon Town Reserves in the 60s, said he was diagnosed after noticing his right hand was shaking.
“I got it checked out at the doctors and was told it was MSA.
“Apparently I have a shorter life span than people with Parkin- son’s but a better quality of life.”
Tom’s mum Denise, who previously cared for Frank, said: “So many people in Swindon know Frank, including a lot of Town players, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to raise money for research and awareness of the illness he has been diagnosed with.
“It is such an aggressive form of the illness and so sad because Frank loves his sport and was so fit.
“I was originally going to do the skydive, but Tom has always wanted to do, and I didn’t really need much persuading.
“Unfortunately Frank won’t be able to come and watch because he can’t stand for very long. But we will get a DVD of the skydive which we will bring back for him to watch.”