My father, Jake, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in 1999 at the age of 56. It started with a slight shake of his right hand and from then on everything changed.
Leading up to his diagnosis, my dad had managed to accomplish many amazing things in his life. He was a standout star athlete throughout his high school years at Cumberland Valley, where he would later be inducted into their Football Hall of Fame, married my mom Sherry - the love of his life, started a family, retired from UPS with 35 years of service and a 3 Million Mile Safe Driving Award, and while doing all this, managed to start a small trailer hitch business on the side with just $1,000 that today stands as a nationwide leading retailer in the cargo trailer industry.
After his diagnosis, it would be safe to say that he went into denial with the motto of ‘business as usual’ however, as time pressed on and the symptoms progressed it was evident he had to take action. Parkinson’s has a way of slowly stripping the person of everything they are or used to be. It’s a battle, not a fight. Every day is different and you must adjust to the punches that PD throws at you.
So for the last 18 years, my dad has ducked and jabbed just like his idol Muhammad Ali. He would fight PD one day at a time with my mom by his side as his full-time caregiver. Fight for one good day, maybe two … knowing that bad days or weeks would follow, however fighting for those good days was always the goal.
In the early stages, he would have a lot of success with speech therapy, exercise and trainers. Water therapy was especially beneficial, as it would eliminate his fear of falling. As his condition advanced he chose to have a deep brain stimulation surgery that improved his tremors tremendously.
My dad is now in stage 4 Parkinson’s disease and resides in a skilled care facility. He is unable to walk and speaks few words. He communicates mainly with his iPad and on a good day his bright blue eyes still sparkle. He still has a lot of fight left in him, and together we have agreed to form a team to fight PD. I’ve since turned my ‘visits’ with him into ‘business meetings’ and we are now actively involved with the Parkinson's Foundation.
Many years ago, as my parents were faced to retire from their business to take on Parkinson’s full-time, the family stepped in to help. My husband, Scott and I now operate that company as All Pro Trailer Superstore, in which we will be making a donation from to benefit the Parkinson's Foundation in honor of my father, Jake Wagner.
Other future goals consist of becoming actively involved with Parkinson's Champions attending endurance races to raise funds and awareness for Parkinson’s and currently, my dad and I are working towards coordinating our own Parkinson’s 5K/1 Mile Fun Walk at the beautiful facility in which he now resides. We’ve named our campaign KnockOut PD and all proceeds from events will go directly to the Parkinson's Foundation to help assist with research and advancements in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Like I mentioned earlier: You’ve got to adjust to the punches that Parkinson’s throws at you. As for my father, he may not have his mobility or his voice anymore, however, he still holds his entrepreneurial spirit and together we are fighting to KnockOut PD!
To contribute to Tammy's Parkinson's Champions fundraiser, visit knockoutpd.com.