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5 years 2 months

I remember my father always working with his hands. As a little girl, I would wrap my tiny fingers around his big fingers. It wasn't until my father began to lose mobility in his hands that he realized how important they really were. 

My father was always active. He loved boxing and worked every day sun up till sun down. But he never showed any sign of the internal battle he may have been fighting at the same time. Before long, he started to have trouble sleeping. His handwriting gradually became smaller and smaller and often sloped at an angle. I watched him drag his feet while walking and struggle to swallow as he developed problems with his esophagus. I never thought he could have Parkinson's disease (PD). Looking back now, the changes I noticed are all symptoms of Parkinson's.

He was diagnosed in 2005 and not just with Parkinson’s. He had a rare form that would later be called "Parkinson's Plus." The decline in mobility caused him to stiffen up so badly that the simple task of gripping a cup became torture.

Still, he continued to do daily chores, even if it was just throwing out the trash, he did it. He fought his disease until his last breath. By then, he moved slower. He could only talk very softly until, eventually, his voice began to tremble and his speech slurred.

My experience with Parkinson's Plus is simple: it is a painfully and slowly debilitating disease that eats away at a person daily. Every day presents a different challenge. But my father didn't let it win.

Parkinson's silenced my dad on September 23, 2014. His heart didn't stop until October 7 that year. But even in death my dad was determined to help others with this disease: he donated his brain to research, hoping it would not only help find the cure, but would help find treatments.

It’s quite simple: everyone struggling with this disease is fighting an internal battle, too. Those who face it, stand strong, put those fists up and give Parkinson's a heck of a fight. The pain might be strong but you can be stronger. Be stronger than the pain.

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