Each month, we spotlight people in our community who have inspiring stories to tell. Today, we are happy to feature Bonita Thomas from Folsom, CA.
What has your journey been like since your Parkinson's diagnosis?
I remember leaving my neurologist's office that wet winter morning and sitting alone on a bench before I could get it together to go to the car and have a good cry. I called a friend and received encouragement before I drove home. My motor symptoms were quite mild so it took a while to get the diagnosis. Initially, I struggled because I only knew of two people who have had Parkinson's. Both were male and quite a bit older than me. I was still teaching Kindergarten full time, running four days a week, and doing weight training the other days. I was told to keep up the exercise and that I was slowing the progression of my Parkinson's. For some reason, I just wanted to see someone else with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease (YOPD). I wanted to see someone who was working full time and managing everything well. It took time to make those connections. I also needed to mourn. I allowed myself time to process what was going on in my mind and to talk it out with family and friends.
How do you live well each day?
I don't focus on what my life may look like in the future. I don't focus on the end stages of Parkinson's. I focus on what I can and want to do now and I do it. I run, hike, and go out on my stand up paddleboard. My husband and I like to travel, and we have gone on many trips around the world and will continue to do so when it is safe. I remind myself of the love and support I have. I look around and see the beauty outside and I get out there and go for a run. I am part of a running team that accepts everyone. We go to races together and cheer each other on. Now we are running virtual races. A few of us were going to run the Seaweeze Half Marathon in Vancouver, Canada, in August but, due to COVID -19, four of us are running it virtually. We have been training together and spreading out to keep safe while running. We are building up our miles and will be ready in August for our race. I just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
What do you wish you would have known when you were diagnosed that you know now about living with Parkinson's?
I wish I had known that Parkinson's looks different on everyone. I call it a boutique disease. Yes, there are many symptoms, but we all don't have all of them. For some of us, we struggle more with the non-motor symptoms; so, someone may not SEE what's going on with me. They look at me and think I am doing fabulous. I am, but they can't see my struggles unless I share those with them. I have learned that I have to educate others about what Parkinson's is and how they can specifically help me.
BONITA THOMAS'S PHILOSOPHY
What do you wish everyone living with Parkinson's knew about living well?
I wish everyone living with Parkinson's knew that by being mobile and moving, just a little bit, that it will help you continue to be active. It doesn't matter where you are. You can't compare yourself with a friend or with yourself before you received the diagnosis. You just need to get out there and try something active, whether it is a walk, yoga, stretching. That little bit will help you the next time and you will see that you can do more. Don't set limits for yourself!
SHARE YOUR VICTORY
Each month, we spotlight people from our Parkinson’s community who embody living well today – what we call Moments of Victory®