What has your journey been like since your Parkinson's diagnosis?
While it might sound silly, one of the biggest lessons I've learned since my diagnosis is that it's okay to fail. It's okay not to be perfect, or what I thought was perfect. I lost a lot of things not too long after my diagnosis: my marriage fell apart, I lost my home and most of my belongings and I lost my career. I lived in a very dark place for nearly three years.
Then one day, I realized I'd had enough of this pity party, and I pulled myself up, dusted myself off and got back to living again. Really living. I took risks, I tried new things and I found out I could do a lot more than I ever thought I could.
I also found out I wasn't alone. I started boxing, running and advocating. This summer, I will be joining other Parkinson's and Alzheimer's advocates on a 112-mile pilgrimage walk across Sicily. This is something I never would've dreamed or imagined I could do. I discovered when I looked past the Parkinson's that there was plenty of life left to live. More importantly, I found out I liked this "new" Julie. Who knew?
How do you live well each day?
Living well with Parkinson's means to live the best life I can in spite of Parkinson's. It means making a conscious decision to fight Parkinson's every day, even on the days I don't feel like it.
I have to live a healthy lifestyle, eat right, rest and exercise to delay the progression of Parkinson's. It means making the time and effort to be engaged socially and to have fun. It means finding something I enjoy and doing it to the best of my abilities, even if that means doing it with adaptations. It also means helping others along this journey to find their way.
What do you wish you would have known when you were diagnosed that you know now about living with Parkinson's?
I wish I knew there was hope for a life that would cause me to celebrate even the smallest of victories, to soak in every moment and to live each day as if there wouldn't be another one quite as sweet. I have met dear friends whose paths I would not have crossed if it weren't for Parkinson's. I wish I knew that I was much stronger and braver than I ever knew I could be.
JULIE FITZGERALD'S PHILOSOPHY
What do you wish everyone living with Parkinson's knew about living well?
Don't be afraid to try new things. You might surprise yourself and find a new passion or hobby. Be adventurous and don't let the fear of the unknown hold you back. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable and let others help you when you need help. My special helper is my service dog, Hope. She is pictured with me below. There's no shame in admitting you are not Superwoman or Superman. Your friends and family probably never thought you were anyway! Discover the new you and your new "normal". Celebrate you and enjoy!
Julie Fitgerald is one of the newest members of our cohort of Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassadors. Our Ambassadors are "living well leaders" who share resources and information throughout their local and regional communities to help people take action and improve their quality of life with Parkinson’s. Connect with one of our Ambassadors and begin your journey today of living well with Parkinson’s!
SHARE YOUR VICTORY
Each month, we spotlight someone from our Parkinson’s community who embodies living well today – what we call Moments of Victory®.
Your story, like Julie’s, could be featured on our blog and Facebook page so others can learn from your experiences and victories.