Parkinson's Disease Diagnosis Changed My Life--for the Better!
Diagnosed at 41
No one wants to be diagnosed with a life changing disease. In 2001, when I was 41 years old, I started feeling a tremor in my right hand. I talked with my doctor and she sent me to a neurologist to have it checked out. I was first diagnosed with essential tremor which runs in my family. Then in May of 2008 I was re-diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. This was a devastating diagnosis. I didn't know what it meant. I have two sons who are now 18 and 15. Would I live to see them get married and have children of their own? In August of 2008, I went to OHSU for a second opinion. After that, I went to a newly diagnosed meeting at OHSU. I really didn't want to go to this meeting. In fact, I was at my hairdressers telling her I was going to skip it. She talked me into going and I'm so glad I did.
At that meeting I met a man who had had Parkinson's disease for 17 years and was teaching Pilates in his community. There was no way anyone could have known this but I wanted to teach Pilates before my diagnosis and had given that dream up after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. After that meeting I contacted the Pilates teacher education program and started learning how to teach Pilates.
I am so happy with my life right now. I am a certified comprehensive Pilates trainer. Pilates keeps me moving and exercising and takes away my stiffness. It's the best thing I could ever have in my life! I have never felt so focused on a goal. It's a wonderful feeling. I have purpose in my life. I'm teaching others with Parkinson's Disease. I've completed the certification program through OHSU on how to teach exercise to people with Parkinson's disease. This program is modeled after their research of an intensive exercise program in which I was a participant. I've also completed my first half marathon walking and have walked other races with the support of my family and friends to raise money for various Parkinson's organizations. At my last checkup with my neurologist, he said that my gait looked great. I think exercise makes me feel good and helps slow my Parkinson's disease symptoms. That's my story. I've only just begun to live.