–By Sophia Solano

Michael J. Fox and Muhammed Ali have become the faces of Parkinson’s Disease since their diagnoses. Yet approximately one million Americans suffer from PD, and this number is expected to double in the next fifteen years. Like Fox and Ali, all people suffering with this horrific disease have a story filled with their own triumphs and tribulations, but without a celebrity platform, their stories remain unheard.

Parkinson’s Disease is is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing neurons in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. By attacking motor skills, PD affects nearly every area of daily life, from basic tasks like writing and cooking to relationships with friends and family members.

Receiving a Parkinson’s diagnosis does not only change the life of the patient – it molds a new perspective for every person who loves that patient. PD certainly can strain relationships, but in spite (or maybe because) of the trials it brings, many children of parents diagnosed with the disease feel their parental relationships have improved.

“If it’s possible, we are closer. I am closer with my mom, and I am closer with my dad,” said the daughter of a mother with PD. “We fight together. We help each other through the obstacles and hurdles that are thrown to my mom. But this is her battle. We are her supporters!”

Children of people with Parkinson’s face personal battles alongside their parents –  different battles, but certainly not less complicated ones.

A father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when his daughter was seven years old. “Back when he drove, my dad would drive me to school,” she said. “I remember the other kids made fun of the way he walked and shook. They would call him names.He often forgot where he was and who people were. I remember listening to him scream at night and shake all the time.”

“At first I was scared and upset,” said a man whose mother is a “Parkinson’s warrior”. “It seemed like one of the strongest people I knew was ‘sick’.  I didn’t know how to address it, or if to address it.”

Many children have noted that their first step in handling their parents’ disease was research. “After I digested the diagnosis, I read a lot to find out as much as I could. I know my mom; she was doing the same thing. Knowledge is power.”

Another important step to acceptance (for family members, friends, and people with PD themselves) is finding a venue in which honest and helpful discussions are held. There are now two Parkinson’s support groups in the area: Milford area Parkinson’s support group in Port Jervis, NY and Good Shepherd-Wayne Memorial Inpatient Rehabilitation Center in Honesdale, PA. There are also countless online support groups on the Web sites of the national Parkinson’s disease organizations, as well as state and local support group sites.

There are many treatment options for symptoms of Parkinson’s, ranging from dance classes to the most common medication, levodopa. There is, however, not currently a cure for Parkinson’s. As a community, one of the best ways to aid the fight against Parkinson’s is to donate to research organizations.

The 4th Annual Pocono FoxTrot 5K for Parkinson’s Research will be held on Saturday, June 16, 2018, at Ann Street Park in downtown Milford, PA. This year’s goal is to raise $50,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Immediately after the run, there will be an after-party with free food, music, and a gift basket raffle. Visit the resource fair and learn about local resources for Parkinson’s patients and caregivers.  Register for the run/walk, donate online, or send checks payable to Pocono FoxTrot 5K, Box 2776, Gold Key Lakes, Milford, PA 18337.

If you or a family member suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, remember you are not alone in your fight. As more people are diagnosed, the larger the PD community grows, and the closer we are to a cure.  And the best advice from the child of a mother with Parkinson’s Disease? “Make jokes. Keep it light. Learn as much as you can. Make Jell-O. Don’t let them take the photos.”

4th Annual Pocono FoxTrot 5K

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Ann Street Park, Milford, PA.