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Annie Long

Growing up I always knew my mom was brave. But it wasn’t until she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) that I realized how incredibly brave she is. The life-changing news shook her to the core, but then pushed her to do things she’d never done before – fly fishing in the wild waters of Colorado, boxing and sharing her story with anyone and everyone who needed to hear it.

Almost four years ago, she went to a neurologist for a hand tremor and left with a Parkinson’s diagnosis, box of tissues and an Azilect prescription. She didn’t know what to think, where to go or what to do next.

I vividly remember that day. She was alone in her car on the phone with me. We were both in total shock. I felt like I could hear the tears streaming down her face and the fear in her voice. At the time, I knew nothing about Parkinson’s, but I knew this wasn’t the news any of us were expecting. I couldn’t be brave for her that day — I cried like the youngest of four that I am and longed to wake up from the nightmare. How could my mom, my rock, my world, have to face something so awful? This wasn’t fair. The universe had picked the wrong person.

As the years passed, I started to realize that maybe the universe chose her on purpose. No one else in my life could handle this disease with such infinite grace and strength. No one else could say so firmly, “I’m Allyson. Not Parkinson’s.”

While I wouldn’t wish Parkinson’s on anyone, I know that my mom is never going to give up, give in and accept this uncertain fate sitting down. She’s going to box, fish, pray, love, laugh and keep fighting for this life she loves so much.

With Parkinson’s disease, there is so much beyond our control that you can’t anticipate. I needed to do more, so I started working for the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF), managing the inaugural Moving Day® Atlanta event. Simultaneously, my entire family started a Moving Day team, raising funds and awareness while giving us the power to face PD head-on. Not letting it change us for the worse, but for the better. I sensed a lot of apprehension from my mom leading up to the event, but hoped she would find some peace in attending.

Event day arrived and the whole family showed up to walk! I actually waddled because I was eight months pregnant at the time. My mom laughed as I attempted to lead the walk at the start line, but was passed by the other attendees flying by.

As my mom crossed the finish line with my brother, she raised her arms high in celebration. That was the first GOOD day in our Parkinson’s journey as a family. We’ve had many since then, and I look forward to many more.

On December 7, 2016, we celebrated my amazing mom’s 70th birthday. For her gift, we decided to create a photo book of memories, letters and poems written by friends and family. Working on it I realized how incredibly beautiful my mom is (inside and out). I am eternally impressed by the way she continues to live her life — full of love, laughter, family and faith.

Mom, no matter what comes you will always be a champion. You will always be my hero. You will never be alone. I love you to the moon and back.

Read Annie’s mother’s (Allyson) uplifting My PD Story

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