Girlfriends Touch Thousands of Lives Around the World
Diagnosed at 43
Things happen in life for a variety of reasons, or for no reason at all. Often we don't even realize which is the case until many years later, if ever. Our paths cross with people we otherwise would not have met and that chance meeting becomes serendipity. In our case, it led to the creation of our web site, pdplan4life.com, which has attracted 4,000 visitors from 50 states and 75 countries since we "gave birth to it" in June 2007.
The idea for our web site grew out of our meeting and becoming friends while volunteering for an on-line national patient advocacy group. Sharing a desire to "give back" to the Parkinson's community, we decided to combine our skills and experience â€” Jean's as a web developer and corporate graphics/software trainer, and Sheryl's as a writer â€” to create a web site to inspire others to make a conscious decision to live well with Parkinson's while waiting and working for a cure.
Our message is simple: "Parkinson's is not a death sentence unless you choose to make it one." We convey this by sharing our very personal challenges with and triumphs over Parkinson's, our fears and funny moments, and practical information and coping strategies we've learned over the years. Our message resonates with the major Parkinson's disease organizations, both at home and abroad, who have helped promote our site by linking to it from their own.
In November 2007, at the invitation of AZ-APDA, we moved to the next level. We "took our show on the road" to present at the Power Over Parkinson's (POP) conference in Phoenix. Having no experience with public speaking, the prospect of talking to a crowd of more than 300 was daunting for Sheryl. Jean, the former stand up trainer, convinced her to give it a try by proposing they be themselves â€” two middle aged girlfriends with Parkinson's sharing their experiences, with Jean the "straight woman" to Sheryl's humorous stories. Eliciting laughter from the get go, Sheryl quickly decided she enjoyed being on tour.
Following our presentation, while lunch was being served, audience members lined up in front of the podium to tell us how we had given them hope, to share their own stories, and to thank us with hugs and handshakes. People waited in this "receiving line" for up to half an hour, with few dry eyes in the house. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine where this partnership would take us, how many lives we would touch, how it would give new purpose to our own lives, and how it would cement our long distance friendship, with Sheryl living in suburban Chicago and Jean in Phoenix.
To quote Winston Churchill, "You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give."
Our web site, pdplan4life.com, has become our vehicle for "giving back" to the Parkinson's community. Please visit us there and learn more about how you can make a conscious decision to live well with Parkinson's.
Sheryl & Jean