I distinctly remember the day I realized my father had something wrong with him.

It was 1992, and my husband and I had recently moved to California. My parents came for their first visit to see us from their home in Cape Cod.

One day on our way to lunch, my mother and I were walking behind my husband and my father, who were chatting about golf.

I noticed my father was holding his right hand in a fist and that he seemed, ever so slightly, to be walking with a different gait. I asked my mother if she had noticed this and she said yes.

We mentioned it to my father, who agreed to see a doctor upon his return home.

He did, and although his general physician did not make a formal diagnosis at the time, he suggested a number of things my father’s symptoms could mean. He recommended my father make an appointment with a neurologist.

My father told me later that as he and my mother entered the neurologist’s office the following week, the neurologist immediately said to my him, “I am pretty sure you have Parkinson’s disease.”

It was quite a shock for them to hear and, of course, it was a life-changing diagnosis.

At the time, a friend of my father’s on the Cape had Parkinson’s, so in addition to the doctor, my father had a built-in expert to speak to. Coincidentally, a year later, my father’s best friend was also diagnosed with the disease.

No one in our family had Parkinson’s, so it was an education for all of us. I logged on to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s website to learn as much as I could and printed out a number of articles for my parents.

They began a subscription to Neurology Today to keep up on new treatments and clinical trials.

For many people, the disease progresses slowly. It was years before the symptoms affected my father’s daily life.

Medication worked to delay his symptoms. And when the disease’s effects could not be controlled by one medication, the neurologist prescribed another.

My father had kept fit and was an avid exerciser—long-distance biking and swimming, calisthenics and golfing were his favorites. His fitness contributed to the delay in symptoms because his muscles and core were strong.

He joined his good friend at a support group and learned new ways of coping, which had a positive effect on my father’s well-being.

As the years went by, the disease manifested itself. We explain my father’s symptoms by saying he does not have “shaky Parkinson’s” as much as he has “frozen Parkinson’s”—the mind wants the feet or the mouth or the arm to move, but they are frozen.

It’s been over 25 years, and my father must now use a wheelchair to get around and needs help with his daily living.

I wish there were a cure.

The disease affects over 10 million people worldwide.

While there are many worthy organizations to support in the fight against the disease, one of the highest-rated charities focusing on Parkinson’s research is the Michael J. Fox Foundation. It is dedicated to finding a cure within the decade and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today.

If you know someone in the Conejo Valley who is struggling with Parkinson’s disease, have them call Senior Concerns at (805) 497-0189. We may be able to help.

To learn more about Parkinson’s disease, go to www.pdf.org.

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