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Debra's Story Share This OHSU Content

pps_m_debra_smNo one wants to be diagnosed with a life changing disease.

In 2001, when I was 41 years old, I started feeling a tremor in my right hand. I talked with my doctor and she sent me to a neurologist to have it checked out. I was first diagnosed with essential tremor, which runs in my family. Then, in May of 2008, I was re-diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. This was a devastating diagnosis. I didn't know what it meant. I have two sons who are now 15 and 12. Would I live to see them get married and have children of their own? I went to OHSU for a second opinion from Dr. Nutt in August of 2008. 

After that, I went to a newly diagnosed meeting at OHSU. I really didn't want to go to this meeting. In fact, I was at my hairdressers telling her I was going to skip it. She talked me into going and I'm so glad I did. At that meeting, I met a man who had had Parkinson's disease for 17 years and was teaching Pilates in his community. There was no way anyone could have known this, but I wanted to teach Pilates before my diagnosis and had given that dream up after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. After that meeting, I contacted the Pilates teacher education program and started learning how to teach Pilates. I am so happy with my life right now. Pilates keeps me moving and exercising and takes away my stiffness. 

It's the best thing I could ever have in my life with Parkinson's disease. I have never felt so focused on a goal. It's a wonderful feeling. I have purpose in my life. I'm planning to teach others with Parkinson's disease. I've completed the weekend certification program through OHSU on how to teach exercise to people with Parkinson's disease. This program is modeled after their research of an exercise program that they just are finishing up.  I've also completed my first half marathon walking in Santa Barbara for the Michael J Fox foundation. I've met some wonderful people at fundraisers. My friends and family are supportive of me and walked with me to raise money for the Parkinson's Resources of Oregon. At my last checkup with Dr. Nutt, he said that my gait looked great. I think exercise makes me feel good and helps slow my Parkinson's disease symptoms. That's my story. I've only just begun to live.