February 2013 - Debbie's Darlings
For many years, Parkinson’s disease was only a memory. My father had been stricken in the 1970s and suffered greatly. I knew the ravages of the disease but had given it little thought for decades. When I felt my toes curling and a buzzing sensation in my leg while caring for my 95-year-old mother ten years ago, my first thought – and quite honestly fear – was that it was Parkinson’s. My doctor found no evidence of PD. However, the symptoms persisted and it soon became difficult to walk. I received my diagnosis in 2005.
Since then, I have taken a proactive approach to living with Parkinson’s. My medications enable me to continue with an active lifestyle, including visiting with friends, enjoying my grandchildren, book clubs, exercise and regular outings to local restaurants and the movies. An important component of my post-diagnosis life includes participating in the Parkinson’s community. I attend a support group and volunteer for clinical trials that could lead to treatments to ease symptoms and maybe even find a cure. It is not a journey that I chose to make, but I am grateful for support I have received and hope that my efforts help others coping with this disease.
There is no bigger or better display of the Parkinson’s community coming together than the Unity Walk. I found out about the Walk by chance: a glimpse of a brochure while on a routine trip to the dry cleaners in 2006. Originally, it was going to just be my husband Bob and me participating. However, at the last minute some dear friends said that they wanted to come too. The following year, our team—now dubbed Debbie’s Darlings—grew exponentially. As the years passed, our group grew to include my four grandchildren, friends, and relatives – many of whom come in from out of town for the Walk. My children’s friends are usually present too. I know that it is important that my kids enjoy a strong support system as they help me battle this disease since it touches all of our lives. Over the years, we have raised close to $37,000. The Unity Walk has now become an annual event we eagerly anticipate where we come together with thousands in the Parkinson’s community. That community is important. I know that I am not alone in dealing with Parkinson’s. That experience of the larger community reminds me that, even on those days when I wake up and getting out of bed before my medication kicks in feels like a herculean feat, mine is not a solitary struggle.
The Unity Walk reminds me of the steely determination that doctors, drug companies and researchers are devoting to eradicating this disease. We walk a most meaningful mile to support them and each other. We walk for the hope that maybe one day in the near future we can all get together in Central Park for happier occasions. We walk so that one day Parkinson’s can be a memory.
Team Captain, Debbie’s Darlings