My name is Catherine Rodriguez; I am a retired school principal, who has Parkinson’s disease. I found the Parkinson’s Disease Association of San Diego to be the best provider of services, education and advocacy for Parkinson’s patients and their families in the San Diego area, so I became involved.

I was diagnosed on May 10th, 1999 at the age of 43. I will always remember the date because May 10 is Mother’s Day in Mexico, “what a Mother’s Day gift.” I was a school Principal at the time. I remember going to the neurologist in the morning after having told my primary care physician that I had this tremor in my right hand. I assumed that it was stress. I blamed most problems on stress; being school principal in a very large charter elementary school is very stressful. Anyway for all I knew only old people got Parkinson’s and at the time I was 43, that’s not old. The neurologist said he believed that I had Parkinson’s, I said “okay,” and went back to work, calling my husband on the way back to tell him the neurologist said I had Parkinson’s, neither of us knew how this would change my life.

I live in San Diego and am one of the thousands locally that have Parkinson’s. I am now 53 years old and am no longer working—the job, the stress and the Parkinson’s were too much for this person to handle. I have kept busy spending time with grandchildren, quilting, gardening, doing volunteer work and advocating for Parkinson’s. I am President of the Board of Directors for the Parkinson’s Disease Association of San Diego. My team has raised over $45,000 in the last four years at the Parkinson’s Walk and I was the Volunteer of the Year for the Parkinson’s Disease Association of San Diego, Combined Heath Agencies in 2006.

As an advocate, I was the Chairperson for Coordinating Volunteers for the Passage of Proposition 71 (California Stem Cell Research Initiative) in San Diego County. I also spoke before the Senate Committee on Health And Human Services on behalf of Parkinson’s patients and the need for stem cell research funding. I have advocated for additional support for research by attending the California Life-Science Day, at the state capital in Sacramento. I have also done interviews with local television and print media.

Parkinson’s may have changed my life, but I won’t let it stop it. To quote Janet Reno, “My hands may tremble but my heart does not.”

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