Parkinson's Awareness Month 2014: Special Report


A version of this letter was published as an Op-Ed in The Baltimore Sun.

By U.S. Senator Cory Booker

I remember when my dad first had symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. For him, it was a persistent numbness in his arm and hand. That was the beginning of a decades-long struggle with ever-increasing symptoms.

My father was always a man of tremendous spirit who confronted challenges with an understanding that you can’t always choose what life brings to you, but you can always choose the attitude that you bring to life. I am proud that as Parkinson’s brought my dad greater and greater physical challenges, he evidenced greater and greater courage. Although Parkinson’s eventually led to the end of my dad’s life, I do believe that he and my mother showed triumphant strength against this relentless adversary.

I know there were days when the challenges were just overwhelming, but my parents never gave up, never stopped pushing forward; they never let the disease rob them of their dignity or love.

I feel blessed that my dad had a great support system. While we had no history of or experience with Parkinson’s in our family, my dad and mom found caring and supportive people who helped them, advised them, treated my father, and offered many different types of support. 

As the years passed and the simplest of tasks became hard for my father, I grew more concerned for my mother. My parents were in Atlanta, and my brother and I lived in different states many miles from Georgia. Caregivers face such extraordinary demands – physical and emotional. My father’s care needs increased, especially when Parkinson’s began to affect his mental health. Again, my mother was blessed to have friends and even neighbors who offered help and understanding but as years passed, it became obvious that my mother needed home health care workers to tend to my father’s needs. 

To this day, months after my father’s passing, I am in awe of my mother and the strength of her love. I know how difficult it was for her and is for other caregivers, and knowing that all over our country and world there are people who manifest such capacity to relentlessly and indefatigably love inspires me.

This is why I am so grateful for the National Parkinson Foundation’s mission.  Its efforts to improve the quality of care for those with Parkinson’s are making a difference. We must get better as a nation to meet the urgent challenge of this disease. We must be, and can be, stronger in the face of it. There are thousands and thousands in our country who continue to struggle. It is a painful struggle that I know all too well. I am honored to support the National Parkinson Foundation because I know that they, along with others, offer support, strength and hope. 

U.S. Senator Cory Booker

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