From Good Housekeeping
While Parkinson’s disease affects men twice more often than women—Michael J. Foxx has been one of the most famous to be afflicted by it—data shows that women experience a faster progression of the disease and a higher mortality rate.
With symptoms like tremors, rigid muscles, slowed movements, and speech changes, a Parkinson’s diagnosis can wreak havoc on the body. These four women, who have been living with Parkinson’s for up to two decades, open up about what they wish they knew when they were first diagnosed, including how important it is to have a rock solid support network.
“You can live a great life with Parkinson’s, but you have to accept help along the way.”
After Kelly Weinschreider, 47, of Chicago, Illinois, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at just 29 years old, she was prescribed several medications that lessened her symptoms. Since she felt fine, it made it easier for her to ignore what was going on, especially since she didn’t tell many people about it. “I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me, or for my diagnosis to change my relationships, personally or professionally, ” she said.
That denial—plus side effects from the medicine and the disease’s progression—forced her to leave her job as a quality manager 10 years later. “I should have been seeing a behavioral health specialist to understand how Parkinson’s affected me and how to accept it,” she says. “Instead, I took my medications sporadically. I mismanaged time and commitments, and I had trouble performing my job and, ultimately, spun out. I wish I would have been more forthcoming with family and friends as to how the disease was affecting me.”
After living with the condition for 18 years, Weinschreider came to terms with her diagnosis. She also realized it truly takes a village to live life with Parkinson’s to its fullest and started to communicate with friends and family when she needed help. “You need the support of family and friends, the care of multiple specialists, and the foresight to plan for the future. You can live a great life with Parkinson’s, but you have to accept help along the way,” Weinschreider says.
“I wish I hadn’t dismissed early symptoms.”
Denise Coley, 68, of Morgan Hill, California was diagnosed with Parkinson’s two years ago, after months of having trouble balancing and experiencing insomnia and mood changes—all things she thought were unrelated to each other, not signs of a slow degenerative disease. “It wasn’t until the motor symptoms appeared, like the tremors, that I realized what was going on was a bigger issue than I originally thought,” Coley says.
In hindsight, Coley wishes she had responded differently, and run to the doctor first thing. “If I had realized sooner,” she says, “I would have spent more quality time with family. I would have looked into what changes in my life and home were needed earlier in order