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Lee Rich

2015, what a year. Parkinson’s took my career. I really loved working in the amazing world of Healthcare. I had a long-term career path and personal goals.

But I’m blessed and happy to have made it this far. I’m happy with what I accomplished. 

Every day I’m in pain and the unknowns when it comes to Parkinson’s are increasing. I’ve tried to return to work, then my health gets the better of me. Judging by only looks, people see me and assume all is good. They never see the pain I’m in or the symptoms I’m hiding.

I’ve had children tell their parents that I’m drunk in the store because of the way I walk. It’s part of this disease. I can’t walk well and try to hide it. I wanted to submit My PD Story because it’s hurtful when people think those of us on disability don’t do anything.

People have told me, “You’re not disabled” or “You do not need that handicapped parking spot.” They have no idea how many symptoms I’m managing at the same time. Even as I sit here writing this my symptoms make me want to take a break. I take plenty of medications just to function and make it through the day. Life is tough, if not for the support from my friends and family I would be saying worse.

When your body takes something away from you, it’s one of the most frustrating and confusing parts of life. I lost my independence, self-worth, income and the ability to provide for myself. I never realized how lucky I was until it was gone.

When you see somebody with a disability, please don’t say anything about the disability. Just say hello, like you would any other person, because we are just normal people. Please don’t assume we don’t want to work, most of is try to until we can’t. Please do not make us feel worse. Trust me, there is not much you can say that I haven’t already heard.

Treat us the same, because we are. Maybe we have a disease or disability that we find difficult to explain. Every one of us have had an illness or know of someone that does. We still care about that person the same as before. As someone with a disability, we do not ask for, nor want sympathy.

I could spend 100 percent of my energy trying to hide my Parkinson’s. If you are accepting of people with a disability, disease or illness then I can focus 100 percent of my effort to be your peer.

I respond differently to life’s experiences now in comparison to when I was diagnosed. I have a new long-term plan and every day I work hard towards achieving it.

Some days I wonder if my illness has made me a better person. The answer is YES.

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