Parkinson’s Disease - I never really knew much about it - why would I? Life was full of so much happiness, love, and brightness.
It was my first year of middle school; seventh grade. I remember only bits and pieces of those few months. I remember my parents going to doctors’ appointments and not being home as much. I remember both my mom and dad being a little off. I remember that bright, sunny afternoon when I got off the bus.
As any seventh grader would, I was excited for school to be over that day. I was probably wrapped up in what I would be doing that afternoon; friends, phones, sports, homework, dinner. I remember walking off the bus and seeing my mom sitting on the bench waiting for me, as she always did. This time, though, she wasn’t sifting through the mail with a grin from ear to ear. She was sitting next to my dad, and I immediately knew something was off; something didn’t feel right. I could tell by their faces that what they were about to tell me was something serious.
I never thought that my family’s life could have changed so drastically within moments. I remember the conversation starting with, “Mom and Dad have something we want to talk to you about.” I remember the words, “Mom is sick, but she is okay” and “We are glad we found out what was wrong - Mom has Parkinson’s Disease”. I was only thirteen at the time, and just hearing the word “disease” - I was frightened, confused, nervous, and terrified. I had so many questions, yet there were so few answers at the time. I thought, in that moment, nothing but the worst.
At first it was all a secret, which I think is what took the biggest toll on me. It was a secret between my immediate family and some of our other family members. It wasn’t something my family wanted to be talked about or shared. I couldn’t talk to my best friends or teachers. It felt like there was this weight on my shoulders that I had to carry around everyday. Even amongst our immediate family, it was never really discussed.
Once some time started to pass, the “secret” was becoming more noticeable to family and friends. My mom slowly started telling people what was going on. It wasn’t until freshman year of college that it really hit me hard.
Being away from home that year for the first time, even though I was at UConn, was one of the scariest and worst years of my life. I was terrified and only thought the worst could come. I wasn’t home to see my mom every day, and I wasn’t there to protect her, get her mind off of it, and make her feel better. I cried constantly and couldn’t escape the fear. Through the support of close family and friends, I was able to talk through my feelings and think about the situation more positively. After twelve long years, I have worked hard to change my mindset, and it’s all because of her.
Being positive, looking on the bright side, shifting perspectives, and never giving up were all mottos I grew up with in my household. We learned to never quit or give up; we always pushed through and believed in ourselves. I am proud of how my family has taken on this challenge full-force and turned it into something positive.
My mom could have let this diagnosis take over her life, her every day, her daily moves; instead, she chose the complete opposite. She has founded an exercise and support program for all people with Parkinson’s in Connecticut. This program has changed the lives of each client, both physically and mentally. She has spread her program across twelve locations and has over two hundred clients. Although it seems like her phone is always ringing off the hook, I still get excited knowing those phone calls are new clients turning to my mom for help. She can’t say no. She won’t say no. She welcomes every single person and wholeheartedly believes and knows her program will inspire, strengthen, and encourage her clients.
I feel vulnerable sharing my story, but I feel more proud and happy than anything. My mom is an inspiration, a fighter, a hero, and of course, a believer. She positively impacts every single person she encounters without even trying. Her motivation and drive towards finding a cure is what is so contagious.
Please help us find the cure by donating to the cause that not only affects me, but almost 10,000 families across the state and hundreds of thousands of families across the country. Parkinson’s disease is not going away until we find the cure...and we will!
Help my mom and all those with this disease by donating at www.crowdrise.com/punchforparkinsons. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.