MOMENTS OF VICTORY® – Heather Cooper Rides the Waves of Young Onset Parkinson’s

Heather-Cooper

Each month, we spotlight people in our community who have inspiring stories to tell. Today, we are happy to feature Heather Cooper from Manchester Township, New Jersey.

WHAT HAS YOUR JOURNEY BEEN LIKE SINCE YOUR PARKINSON’S DIAGNOSIS? 

When I was diagnosed at 45, I was a single mom to two teenagers, working full time, and simultaneously trying to develop a new romantic relationship (the first in close to 10 years). To say that a Parkinson’s diagnosis was overwhelming at this time of my life would be an understatement. 

Since the diagnosis, my journey has continued to be a winding road. My kids have moved out, I’ve gotten married, traveled a lot, left my job on permanent disability, had my house foreclosed on, declared bankruptcy, became an ambassador for the Parkinson’s Foundation, ran 12 mud-runs, was featured in three magazines, volunteered at a therapeutic riding center for children with autism, suffered severe bouts of depression, participated in research trials, led seminars, and am currently working on a book about two topics that have deep personal meaning to me: diet and cognition.

Heather-Cooper-Hospital

A year ago, I started to decline rapidly and decided to undergo deep brain stimulation (DBS), which, at first, gave me amazing results. Unfortunately, it seems the hardware is infected and must be removed. As it turns out, living well with Parkinson’s is not “one and done.”

I recently had my fourth brain surgery to remove the infected hardware, and now I’m learning to live well with Parkinson’s again. After six months of antibiotics and physical limitations I was weak, depressed, and starting the process of creating a medication regimen once again. I felt worse than ever, but now my hope has returned and I’m making progress towards being the best I can be. I have started the LSVT Big program, joined an exercise class, started a shoe-drive fundraiser for Parkinson’s, started a local support group, and started playing my new favorite sport — pickleball!
So remember, even when you see no light, don’t give up! Keep searching and fighting and you will succeed in living your best life, whatever that may be!

How do you live well each day?  

Tough-Mudder-Heather-Cooper

I don’t sweat the small stuff, and I remind myself that asking for help is necessary and not a sign of weakness. I try to enjoy every day and realize that I create my own reality with my state of mind. And so, I choose to wake up on the right side of the bed. I choose to exercise everyday even if the pain is bad. I choose to surround myself with positive people. 
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What do you wish you would have known when you were diagnosed that you know now about living with Parkinson’s? 

There are treatment options available. I wish I would have been more involved with my care plan from the start.

What do you wish for everyone living with Parkinson’s? 

Life goes on. Don’t give up!

SHARE YOUR VICTORY 

Each month, we spotlight people from our Parkinson’s community who embody living well today – what we call Moments of Victory®. Your story, like Tom’s, could be featured on our blog and Facebook page so others can learn from your experiences and victories.  

Submit Your Moments of Victory 

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