Secret Diagnosis

Keeping Parkinson’s Disease a Secret

by Kate Yandell

When Nancy Mulhearn learned she had Parkinson’s disease seven years ago, she kept the diagnosis mostly to herself, hiding it from friends, colleagues — even, at first, her mother, sister and teenage children.

After seven months, she decided she had to tell her family, and they settled into an unspoken agreement not to talk about the disease. She also realized her colleagues already suspected the truth: One asked why she had trouble applying her lipstick. She sometimes could not control her shaking hands.

Still, it was years before Ms. Mulhearn, now 51, of Bethlehem Township, NJ, felt she could talk freely about her condition. Ms. Mulhearn, a school secretary, regrets having waited so long.

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