November 2010 - Team I Just Got Back
In April of 2002 I found out that the tremors I had discovered in 1997 were indeed PD...I was about to turn 50, my mom had just died of Alzheimer's, and I was terrified. My life had a serious degree of stress...I have been a teacher for children and adults with visual impairments since 1975, and in 1995 had been selected California Teacher of the Year. I was visible, I was an advocate for my school children, and I always felt sick. I was newly divorced with 2 young children, and yet I kept going. Life has its goals.
One of my life's ambitions was always to start my own jewelry business, and so I did as part of my new person with a Parkinson's persona. Partly to feel success with making beautiful things, and partly to provide my cramping hands with some self inflicted physical therapy, I started "I Just Got Back". I chose the name because I felt that I had just returned from the world of hurt I had been navigating with this diagnosis. Each necklace is named for a place I have been and loved. And 10% of every dime I make is donated to the different PD agencies and now the Parkinson's Unity Walk. My dream is to start a co-op of people with health "concerns", to practice their art while donating to their respective organizations searching for hope and hopefully cures. And yes I am still teaching my blind students part time, because retiring would mean giving in to the Parkinson's. PD will not win.
As outgoing and open as I have always been, and as much as I have taught my students to be open about their disabilities, I could not really face nor discuss mine. Joining 10,000 or so others in Central Park has been the boost I have needed to be open, be strong and be involved. I am so grateful.
And now a word from my husband, Michael Meteyer:
“Kate Byrnes, in her skills as a teacher, her wisdom as a friend, and in our journey as husband and wife, is the most extraordinary woman I have ever known. Her dedication as a teacher fills an ever expanding circle of friends and peers in the blindness field. For all of her more than 37 years as a teacher in special education, Kate has encouraged, supported and inspired her students to meet their physical and mental challenges head on…and to do so with courage, grace, and where possible, with humor. After she received her diagnosis of Parkinson’s, Kate promised to meet her challenges in the same way. Her word is perfect.”
And a word from my youngest daughter, Chrissy Costello:
"My mother is unbeatable. She is constantly exhausted, and although she would chalk it up to Parkinson's, the actual cause for her exhaustion is the selflessness that she shares with the world like it's going out of style. Day and night, she combats the pessimistic and defeatist mindsets that are out to get the best of us. Her compassion and merciless support is the reason that I go from horizontal to vertical every day, and tire myself out as I aspire to be like her. Her joy comes from the uplifting of others, even if it means that it pushes her down. But it doesn't; it lifts her up even more. My mother exemplifies Gandhi's concept that we "must be the change we wish to see in the world." Her world would be unstoppable, and fueled by positivity and the unification of our global human family. Last year, she walked with her husband. This year she walked with team "I Just Got Back." And every single day, she walks as a strong individual with an unabashed pride and the relentless pursuit of a brighter day."
And from my eldest daughter, Tara Costello:
My mother . . . is a superhero! She truly is. Every single day she
goes out into the world with her head held high and does everything
she possibly can to make others' lives easier. I remember when my mom
told me she had Parkinson's. The very first thought in my head was,
"it won't stop you." And it hasn't. I have followed in my mother's
footsteps and become a teacher for children with special needs myself
because it would be an honor to be even an ounce of the woman she is.
Crossing the finish line in Central Park last spring for the PUW was a
huge life high! Parkinson's hasn't stopped her nor does it define who
she is. She is a strong, beautiful, intelligent mother and friend who
touches the lives of everyone she meets and I am so proud of her.
When I was little, my mom used to tell me I was her "first thought
when she woke up in the morning" and her "last thought before she went
to sleep at night." And now (and forever more) she is mine .