April is such a beautiful month in Tampa, and it’s already almost over as we quickly head into May. You may not know this, but it is also Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Parkinson’s is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning symptoms continue and worsen over time. It is estimated that nearly 1 million Americans live with Parkinson’s. There is no cure.
My father had Parkinson’s and died from complications of it in 2009. The term “complications of the disease” is used because Parkinson’s itself, it is said, does not kill. Yet it compromises so much of one’s body. Most people are unaware of symptoms other than “shaking and shuffling,” and believe it affects only the elderly. However, many young people have it, and the numbers continue to grow.
My father was a man who never lost his love for life, his gentle spirit and kindness toward others. There are no words to express witnessing this disease rob him of movement, thought, speech, ability to write and forcing him to need complete care. There is no room within this letter to describe all of his symptoms. Often, the symptoms that lead to a diagnosis are: tremors, slowness of movement (bradykinesia), rigidity and trouble with balance — although not all people with Parkinson’s will suffer from all of the symptoms, and each person is unique in the symptoms that will affect them.
It is important for the Tampa community to recognize that Parkinson’s is not discriminating and affects people regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, race, religion and even residency, meaning that many of our neighbors live with it.
Several of the public library branches in Hillsborough County have free pamphlets from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) to help educate our citizens of its symptoms and available resources. You may call them at 813-273-3652 for locations. Alternatively, you may contact PDF at www.pdf.org. They are an excellent foundation and provide helpful information to those with Parkinson’s, as well as their family, friends and caregivers.
As a devoted advocate, I am excited to share that I will be involved in events being planned for the near future to build stronger support and recognition of Parkinson’s to the Tampa Bay area. Help be a partner in fighting Parkinson’s in our community.
Linda Giorgilli Rice