From Gatorade to The Quaker Oats Company, I’ve worked at some of the biggest companies, focused on clinical research that links exercise and nutrition parameters in health and athletic performance. As a nutritional biochemist and scientific researcher, I worked to understand how our bodies work and what happens when they stop functioning the way they should.
In 2013, I received the sobering news that I had Parkinson’s disease (PD). Like most people with PD, after I was initially diagnosed, I wanted to understand the long-term implications of this progressive disease. As a former researcher, I began searching for answers.
My initial thoughts and feelings were about how my health would change and how PD would affect my family. I worried about keeping up with my daily routine, driving my sons to practice, working around the house or golfing — things many people take for granted.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve grasped how PD affects me, my family and lifestyle. My PD is tremor-predominant, but I deal with slowness and other non-movement symptoms, like low energy and sleep disturbances. It continues to be a challenge, but I’m taking it one day at a time.
Just over a year ago, my engineer son began working for Rune Labs, a company that created an app called StrivePD that helps people with PD track exercise, symptoms, medications, treatment side effects and sleep behavior. As a former PhD-level scientist, I can appreciate the data and its insights. My son asked me to try the app, so I did.
My outlook on PD has changed after using the app for just a few months. I feel I have more control over my disease, allowing more time to do things I love, like spending time with my family. It has improved my medication timing, workouts and dietary decisions. Since it links to my AppleWatch, it takes no conscious effort.
While Parkinson’s remains a struggle, StrivePD has helped me realize the importance of exercise and how it dramatically reduces my mobility issues. It motivates me to stretch, lift weights, complete core workouts and visit my physical therapist twice a week. Exercise has dramatically reduced my symptoms and helps me control them.
Looking Toward the Future
As I continue to use StrivePD, I plan to share my data with my clinician to better understand how my daily routine affects my disease, specifically exercise and how I can improve my energy and sleep. It can be daunting to encapsulate months of my disease experience in a one-hour visit. StrivePD helps capture symptom changes and a bigger picture of how things are going. I am proud of how my son continues to help build StrivePD so that people like me can better manage this disease.
Energy with exercise. After a decade of dealing with Parkinson’s, that has become my mantra. Exercise gives me the energy to go about my day and helps keep me alert. I urge my fellow PD community to have a goal and not let this disease control you.