What has your journey been like since your diagnosis?
I was diagnosed in 2012. Since then, it has been a long road of pain and mobility obstacles... and financial hardship. I’ve learned that I must be my own advocate in finding ways to live normally and independently.
My Parkinson's symptoms began a month after I started college. I had to quickly figure out a game plan to take care of my family. They depended on me and I was determined to not let Parkinson’s interfere with my ability to care for them. My determination kept me going. I could not let Parkinson’s defeat me. I learned to ask for help and I discovered how to deal with all of the complications this disease brings to my life day in and day out. I found a medication regimen that worked and I kept reminding myself that I could still get things done, just at a slower pace.
And so far I’ve done it. I've found a way to cope. I'm especially proud to say that I graduated college in May of 2015. Along the way I cried many times and asked God, “Why me?” What kept me going was the love and support I received from my family and friends.
How do you live well each day?
I live well each day by staying active and by researching new medications that are prescribed to me. I know now that doing research on medications is crucial in avoiding serious side effects. A medication I took relieved my tremors 100%, but it caused chronic, severe and debilitating leg cramps. My leg cramps were so bad that I couldn’t walk. Six months of physical therapy helped me to walk again and it also taught me an important lesson: don’t just take what they prescribe you. Do your own due diligence when determining whether or not to take a medication and investigate what other actions you might be able to take to mitigate some of the less desirable side effects. Another big help were the Botox injections I got in my left leg.
One of the things I do that really helps me to live well is my color therapy. I discovered it at a time when I was becoming especially depressed and overwhelmed with my new life with Parkinson's. The Parkinson's Foundation posted a suggestion on their Facebook page about color therapy, and it truly helped me to get into a more positive mental state. I find coloring extremely relaxing and therapeutic. I've also joined coloring book groups on Facebook. This has turned out to be a great experience as I’ve had the opportunity to chat with various people about the different ideas they have for living well.
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 more about Parkinson's medications before I tried some of them because one almost left me without the use of my legs. I now look on the Internet for answers to medications that go beyond the standard information. Comments on blog posts also offer great insight on how different medications really work for different people.
What do you wish everyone living with Parkinson’s knew about living well?
I wish they knew how effective color therapy can be to help you stay relaxed and mentally sharp. Botox has also played a huge part in allowing me to walk normally again, and it has several uses for the Parkinson's community. I've tolerated Botox very well, and I’ve had zero side effects. Finally, networking with people is the best way to find answers.
Currently Jennifer spends her days immersed in coloring and caring for her father who is a dialysis patient. Best of all she’s helping her niece with her wedding arrangements which distracts her mind from the reality of 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 Jennifer's, could be featured on our blog and Facebook page so others can learn from your experiences and victories.