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Shaken to the Core

Wednesday April 13, 2016

By Allison Toepperwein
Single Mom, Blogger, Social Media Network Creator, Motivational Speaker, Fitness Enthusiast, Mud Runner, Parkinson's Patient and Overcomer

This blog post originally appeared in The Huffington Post

It’s started. But, I took an extra dose. Oh gosh, they’re looking. Where was I? Now it’s getting worse, because they’re looking. Make it STOP! Telling myself that is NOT working! Now, I’m rambling. I’m just going to close.

“So how did I do on time?” I asked. Out of a 10-minute presentation, “It was 5 minutes.”

I live each day, waking up knowing I have a progressive, degenerative disease known as Parkinson’s. Each day, I wake up with vigor to take on the day. I hop in the shower and it becomes a nuisance to shave under my arms. However, prior to my diagnosis and subsequent prescriptions, it was just pitiful. I usually wait until right before heading out the door to take those meds; trying to pretend I can overcome the symptoms. My left hand trembles as I apply my staple cat eye. Rigidity is a reminder when I’m stiff, curling my hair. “Ouch!” Every time, every single time I walk through the door way, my shoulder catches the frame! But, once those meds kick in, I’m riding the wave.

Thirty minutes into them, I slowly regain the ability to type with both hands. Brain fog starts to fade. I can fully function again! That is until, about two hours into these same meds that helped me feel whole, calm my shake, and allow me to regain the spatial recognition of my body; creates unwanted twisting and turning of my hand. This is known as dyskinesia. An hour goes by, and the dyskinesia has ceased. I have another hour or so, before my tremor is back and the brain fog returns. Time to take my pills! Rinse and repeat.

This is my reality. I love how my life is forming, even with PD. Taking a few pills a day are hardly irritating. Even though I live around my meds. I read about people with real problems and I am humbled each day. I am in stage one of early onset Parkinson’s disease. I’ve had symptoms for at least six years. And I believe exercise is the main reason it hasn’t progressed further. My reality is hardly sad or pitiful.

I’ve read about a 13-year-old boy who was diagnosed in Columbia. He is now a grown man who uses comedy to overcome his symptoms. Or another man who is the first Olympian with Parkinson’s and has had five open-heart surgeries to combat a heart defect. There is a man who will be jumping out of a plane 300 times in 24 hours to raise money for Parkinson’s, in honor of his dad. He will accomplish this with only one arm, that he lost in a snow mobile accident just a few years ago.

This week I gave a presentation. While I live with the reality of Parkinson’s, most of the time I’m unfazed. I live by the mantra, “It is, what it is,” and refuse to dwell. Yet, every once in a while, like during my presentation, my tremor shakes me to my core and I realize I’m not like I was before. I used to be able to hide my nerves. That is no longer the case. Now I wear my emotions on my left arm in the form of a tremor. The more they stared, the more pronounced my tremor became. This new social awkwardness is just one more challenge I will overcome.

April is Parkinson’s awareness month. This month I will be donning high heels every opportunity I get for the Heels On Head Up campaign benefiting the Michael J. Fox Foundation and organized by the GORGEOUS and effervescent Shoe Maven. My story of fitness and fighting PD my way, will be featured by the National Parkinson Foundation. This month I will be cheering for friends, most of whom I’ve yet to meet, but all of which are battling their way as a Parkinson’s warrior.

Some things Parkinson’s has taught me is no one is impervious to the shakes. No one will go through life without getting a taste of their medicine. No one will miss at one time or another, being a slave to the clock. While, some of my symptoms are visible, like most people, many are still hidden.

Parkinson’s has also taught me how to live! My entire life I wanted to be artistic! In November I began drawing, never having taken an art lesson.

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I’ve applied to be on America Ninja Warrior, now able to jump, hang and swing further than most disease free 30-somethings. I hope to hear back this month!

I’ve developed friendships all over the world. I’m setting a better example for my daughter by my actions, than I ever could have imagined. And I believe, I truly believe that all things are possible, in particular a cure!

So, in this month of Parkinson’s, I ask you, what is your Parkinson’s? What can shake you to the core, make you rethink every part of your life, and give you the propulsion you need to fly? In the next 30 days, think of what can rattle your life?!

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