This week, we’ve invited our YOPD Council leaders (Amy, Steve, Gaynor, Kat, Tom, Erin, Heather, and Kevin) to take over the blog and share their stories. We hope you’re as inspired by them as we are.
Interview with Tom Palizzi, Davis Phinney Foundation YOPD Council Leader
At age 48 and at the peak of his career, Tom Palizzi went to his doctor for a standard physical exam. Hours later, he was in an appointment with a neurologist. He went home that day with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
“I’d mentioned to my doctor that sometimes when I was typing, my pinky finger would freeze up and type a row of a’s. She suggested I schedule a visit with a neurologist. And all of the sudden I’m thinking, ‘You just said I was in great health and now I’m seeing a neurologist?’”
A few days later, Tom got a second opinion, which confirmed the diagnosis. “That began my new life, my new mission, my new journey with Parkinson’s.”
Learn more about Tom’s experiences with young-onset Parkinson’s, his introduction to the Davis Phinney Foundation (where he is now an Ambassador and YOPD Council Leader), his leadership role with Pedaling For Parkinson’s, and his advice for seeing silver linings.
- After his diagnosis, countless questions cycled through Tom’s mind: Am I prepared for this? Is the house in order? Are our finances in order? How do I tell my kids? How do I tell my business partners?
- The stress from these questions led to an anxiety attack two weeks later, which Tom now sees as a springboard to his current role as a Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassador. “Now I help people through this step. I know now that there is another side to it. You get over the hump. It becomes manageable, and you learn how to live well.”
- Tom got involved with the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies, answering phones and helping out at events. One of those events was a bike-ride fundraiser for the Davis Phinney Foundation, and there Tom reconnected with Davis Phinney and met several people who would become lifelong friends. “It really got me started thinking about the importance of connecting to other people with Parkinson’s.”
- A lifelong avid cyclist, Tom felt a connection to Davis Phinney’s story, and when his sister sent him an article about Dr. Alberts’ research on cycling and Parkinson’s (funded in part by the Davis Phinney Foundation), his interest in the Foundation grew stronger. “The bike and Parkinson’s just seem to have this relationship that drew me in.”
- Now, Tom leads a Pedaling For Parkinson’s class in Arvada, Colorado (and currently online) three days a week, connecting people from all around the country. (Want to join in on the fun? You can sign up for his class here.)
- Among the advice he would offer to someone who has been recently diagnosed with young- onset Parkinson’s:
- Don’t be afraid. “It is a big deal, but it’s a big deal that you can get your arms around”
- Get involved, reach out, help others, and seek help for yourself
- Reach out to your local Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassador and start with a conversation
- Get your finances in order in anticipation for a time in which you may not be able to
work or may need to retire early
- Know that there will likely be a grieving period after diagnosis
- Accept that your plans won’t be what you thought they were
Want to learn more about the YOPD Council?
You can register for the entire YOPD Council series here. We meet on the third Thursday of every month to discuss the unique challenges of living with YOPD.