I have always believed the old adage that if you feel something is off or wrong, then it probably is. Life began to change when I could no longer teach my fitness classes without extreme muscle spasms, when I couldn't complete a 5K due to leg pain and weakness, when my hand began to shake without explanation and when going to work as a physical education teacher caused a level of fatigue and brain fog that I had never experienced. Each of these symptoms caused me to fear that I would no longer be able do the things I loved.
I was under the care of both a great chiropractor and physical therapist who urged me to find answers when there seemed to be none. It became a guessing game and a myriad of tests that never produced the answer. No one could tell me what was wrong, so how I was supposed to get back to normal?
After almost a year of testing in my local area and being told many different things without solutions, I reached out to a major research hospital which was seven and a half hours away from my home. Luckily, I was accepted as a patient and when I walked in the doors, I knew that I was in the correct place.
After a series of visits, I received a telephone call that would change my life and give me an answer to what had been ailing me for almost two years. The physician informed that she believed I had young-onset Parkinson's disease (YOPD).
While I never expected this diagnosis, I knew that Parkinson’s was manageable because I have a coworker who was also diagnosed with YOPD several years ago. Once I started medication, I began to get my life back. My movement disorders specialist told me about the Parkinson’s Foundation and the resources available for people living with PD. I was able to virtually attend a symposium to learn more about the disease.
I still can't run like I did before YOPD symptoms began, but I can box, teach my fitness classes and lift weights effectively. When I’m at home, I use Fitness Friday videos to stay moving. I learned that it is imperative to stand up for yourself and not give up on answers. If you ever find yourself on a diagnosis journey, don't give up! I believe that had I not continued to search for answers, my condition would have been much worse before I knew the cause of my symptoms.
I now choose to spread awareness of YOPD through education, exercise and encouragement for those living with the same condition.