When I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD) in the fall of 2019, I was devastated. As an occupational therapist for over 30 years, I knew how debilitating Parkinson's could be and how the trajectory of my life would be changed forever. However, once I came to terms with my PD diagnosis, I vowed to do everything in my power to slow the progression of this disease.
As someone who enjoys information gathering, I set upon learning as much as I could about Parkinson’s. I scoured the Parkinson's Foundation website for information about being newly diagnosed and viewed countless webinar recordings on subjects such as nutrition and diet, exercise, medication and research. I also enjoyed reading the stories of other people living with PD and getting inspiration from their experiences.
After learning more about PD, my routine included regular check-ins with my neurologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, as well as managing my symptoms with medication. In addition, I embarked upon an exercise regimen 4 to 6 days per week which included strength training, kickboxing, Pilates and yoga.
However, when my husband and I decided to take dance lessons to prepare for our son's wedding, I wasn’t sure if Parkinson’s would interfere. Would the dystonia in my feet slow me down? Would my decreased balance interfere with my ability to negotiate turns? Would my fear of falling affect my ability to move? Would my bradykinesia interfere with the fluidity of my movements? However, with the support of our very talented and patient instructor along with the rest of the team at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Marlboro, New Jersey, I was able to dance the night away at our son’s wedding.
One year after we started our dance journey, my husband Nick and I danced a spotlight foxtrot at our studio's monthly dance party. It was terrifying... and exhilarating! I had done it! Despite my fears and lack of confidence in my ability as a person with Parkinson’s disease, I had performed a (mostly) fluid and graceful foxtrot in front of a room full of dancers with my husband. The video of us dancing received over 15,000 views on social media!
My husband and I have recently set a new goal of dancing a spotlight tango and learning to salsa. I hope to continue to dance for many years and to inspire other people living with PD not to let their fears hold them back!