Helen

Diagnosed at 50

I have been a California resident most of my life.  I had a long and successful career as a CPA, wife, mother (2 sons), grandmother (3 grandsons) and dedicated volunteer.  My first exposure to Parkinson’s came when I was a young girl as I witnessed my paternal grandmother confined to a wheelchair from the rigidity and palsy of Parkinson Disease.

My diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease came in April, 1993, just after I turned 50.  My treatment began immediately and today I am treated by a neurologist who specializes in PD.

Parkinson research has produced new medications which have become available and very helpful to me on a timely basis, thus my symptoms have progressed very slowly.  I am mainly impacted by tremor when I get cold, watch a scary movie or become very fatigued.  My main symptom is slowness of movement.

After 23 years of living with PD, I now use a walker to walk any distance to avoid fatigue and falling over level changes in the walking surface.  My handwriting is atrocious, typing on the computer is frustrating because of too much or too little pressure on the keys, I have difficulty using a hairdryer or a non-electric toothbrush effectively (forget using a curling iron).  But due to my ingenuity I have found ways around these problems.  My main disturbing symptom at this time is my posture.  I may have to retire again to figure out how to handle this one!

The first line of defense is still a positive attitude.  While I don’t deny the presence of PD, I refuse to let it take control of my life.  I still enjoy cooking for and entertaining friends and family; enjoy my three young grandsons; traveling, camping in Yosemite; dancing on a cruise ship (close to a pole if needed for balance, thus the origin of the phrase pole dancing.)  I keep adding to my bucket list: zip lining with my 12-year old grandson as soon as he weighs 80 lbs., soaring, parasailing, and returning to quilting.

I participated in the APDA Optimism PSA because I believe this exposure will heighten the awareness of PD.  My hope is to bring more resources to the cause and more compassion for those coping with the disease as well as the knowledge that they are not alone in this journey.

Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, not to be spent dwelling on a “little thing” like PD. There could be so many worse possibilities than PD.  Life goes on!

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