If I learned one thing from being diagnosed young, at 21, it is that getting Young Onset Parkinson's disease (YOPD) is not a death sentence. Life will get tougher; you just have to find a way to adapt. My motto is “Embrace the shake.” Make fun of yourself, which in my experience helps people feel more relaxed around you. My Dad and I constantly joke about it.
I have also learned that you are your most important advocate. It is OKAY to ask for help, and it is OKAY to politely deny the request. 2020 has become the year of virtual. That is actually a great thing for us (people with PD) because it broadens the way and places that our stories can get shared. Instantly we can get our story out to millions of people like we have never been able to before.
The best thing I have done for myself is finding a therapist that I can talk to about my journey. No matter your age, we all struggle with the different aspects of this disease. She helps me work through the anxiety and depression that can come with Parkinson's.
Live your life the way you want to live it ― mine is full of adventures. Since getting diagnosed my senior year of college I still managed to graduate with my class. I have worked as a special education teacher and am now an after-school care teacher. But the most important thing that has happened to me in the past nine years is: I got MARRIED.
Do what makes you happy. Make friends with and without the disease. I have my friends who have Parkinson's who I can vent to and they can do the same with me. Then I have my set of friends who don't have Parkinson's. They remind me that I am a “normal person” and treat me the same as before I had it.
Just remember to keep rolling with the punches. Take things day by day. Most important is to laugh often and educate others. #LetsFindAcure
Update: Since submitting her PD Story, Samantha participated in the Parkinson's Foundation genetics study, PD GENEration: Mapping the Future of Parkinson’s Disease. "I have Young Onset Parkinson's and PD GENEration gave me incredible insight into my own Parkinson's. It better abled me to educate my family members who would ask if they are carrying the same gene I have. Thank you to the Parkinson's Foundation for making this possible."
For more information on Young Onset Parkinson’s, check out these Parkinson’s Foundation resources: Young Onset Parkinson’s, 10 Helpful Young-Onset Parkinson’s Resources, Navigating the Challenges of Young Onset Parkinson’s.