Each month, we spotlight someone in our community who has an inspiring story to tell. Today, we are happy to feature Teresa Jackson from Stephens City, VA.
What has your journey been like since your Parkinson's diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with Parkinson's in February 2019. Initially, my symptoms included a resting tremor, bradykinesia, and balance issues. My diagnosis experience was frustrating, leaving me bewildered as to how to manage my disease. Education, or even information on resources, was not provided at the time I was diagnosed. I requested a second opinion and the experience was the same, as was my diagnosis. Lack of information seemed to be the norm and the annoyance from this experience soon fueled my research. I became resolute on figuring out how to live the best life I could with Parkinson's. My research on Parkinson's led me to discover the impact that exercise has on the disease. I exercise almost every day by taking Rock Steady Boxing classes, walking long distances, participating in ballet class, and doing various other types of exercise. I'm always seeking new ways to exercise both my brain and my body.
For many years, I worked in healthcare in a growth position that was highly visible and demanding. I left that line of work after my diagnosis to decrease my stress level. Then I returned to school. I am now a Certified Integrative Health and Wellness Coach, trained by Duke. Currently, I coach others to make sustainable health changes, which is very rewarding.
In July of this year, I will compete in the Mrs. Virginia pageant with a platform of Parkinson's Awareness and the need for education with newly diagnosed patients. I speak across the state of Virginia and share my personal journey to encourage others to live their best life in spite of Parkinson's. We all have a choice…we can either sit down and give up or get up and fight back. Here's to fighting back!
How do you live well each day?
Each day I make sure I exercise. It's the most important thing I do to live well. In addition to exercise, I challenge my brain. I read, play games, do puzzles, and seek opportunities to learn something new. I am blessed to have a supportive family and care partner. I also continue to travel with my husband. Finally, I am still able to create memories through photography.
What do you wish you would have known when you were diagnosed that you know now about living with Parkinson's?
First, I wish I had been told that Parkinson's is not a death sentence. The diagnosis is so scary and there is so much negative information on the web that it's easy to think death will show up quickly as a part of this journey. Once you know that most people die WITH Parkinson's and not from Parkinson's, you can begin to focus on how to live with it. I also wish that I had known how important it is to partner with a movement disorder specialist (MDS) right away. MDSs have more experience with Parkinson's and can offer an array of treatment plans. I'm fortunate that I discovered how exercise impacts the symptoms of Parkinson's, but I wish someone had told me that right away. I wish I had been given a resource list and an Ambassador's name so I could have asked questions.
TERESA JACKSON'S PHILOSOPHY
What do you wish everyone living with Parkinson's knew about living well?
Get up! Get moving! It makes a huge difference in your quality of life. Find your tribe! Stay connected to those you love and also find and engage with other people living with Parkinson's. In addition to exercising your body, exercise your brain. Look for new opportunities. Learn something new. Life will not likely look like you thought it would but that doesn't mean it can't be good. Look for the blessings, gifts, and opportunities!
SHARE YOUR VICTORY
Each month, we spotlight people from our Parkinson’s community who embody living well today – what we call Moments of Victory®