My PD Story

Herbert Wennink headshot
People with PD

Herbert Wennink

I was 56 when I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD). Now, almost 10 years later, I look back on how the disease has affected my life but also how I continue to adapt. I never thought I’d be at the gym so much, or that I’d have to take early retirement, but I have learned that I am resilient and that even as the disease progresses, I can still have a great deal of joy in my life.

A few months before being diagnosed, I noticed symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as a small tremor in my hand and a loss of smell. At the urging of my wife, I saw my primary care doctor, who suspected Parkinson’s. I then saw a general neurologist who confirmed the diagnosis.

I sought a second opinion at Northwestern Medicine Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center because it is a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence. Northwestern Medicine Neurologist Danny Bega, MD, confirmed my diagnosis and created a personalized treatment plan addressing not only medications, but also lifestyle changes and exercise to manage symptoms and enhance my quality of life.

A central element of my life is attending Rock Steady Boxing classes specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s. I also attend Parkinson’s-specific ping pong, golf and Second City Improv classes. Who knew Parkinson’s could be so funny? Many of these initiatives have received Parkinson’s Foundation community grants.

The Parkinson’s Foundation has been a key resource for providing me and my family with ongoing education. I found the Hospital Safety Guide to be helpful when I was diagnosed and continue to use it as a resource. Each year, I attend the Parkinson’s Disease Patient and Caregiver Symposium, co-hosted by the Parkinson’s Foundation and Northwestern Medicine, to stay updated on treatments and research. Through the Foundation’s events like Moving Day walks and Parkinson's Players activities, I have found support, camaraderie and a sense of belonging.

My journey with Parkinson’s disease has taught me many things. One is that Parkinson’s isn’t limited to older adults; it affects people of all ages and can happen to anyone.

Herbert Wennink on a hike

I’ve also learned to celebrate milestones. I’ve been living with Parkinson’s for nearly a decade, and every year that my symptoms are managed is a milestone. I appreciate that I have been able to live well enough to take several international trips with my wife and daughter since my diagnosis.

I am proud to have stuck with a vigorous exercise program over the years, and it’s paying off. I have definitely learned that exercise equals medicine, and the community of supportive coaches and friends is invaluable. I hope fellow people with PD will approach this disease with a positive attitude and a commitment to being active — and keep pushing to live the best life possible.

Learn more about the Northwestern Medicine Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center

Find the Parkinson’s exercise class that works for you! For virtual options, explore our Fitness Friday videos. For in-person classes, visit your local chapter’s webpage or call our Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636).

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