Battling Parkinson’s disease: ‘keep moving’ and fight it with attitude

09/19/12  Portland, Ore.

29th annual Parkinson’s disease symposium to offer guidance on battling the disease

Carol Clupny, diagnosed with Parkinson's disease four years ago, has a slogan she repeats often.

“I have Parkinson's — but Parkinson's doesn't have me," she says.

Clupny, a retired speech pathologist from Hermiston, Ore., proves that every day. And she especially proved that this past summer, when she walked almost 400 miles over five weeks on the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain. Clupny walked the trail to raise money for Oregon Health & Science University's Parkinson Center of Oregon, where she is a patient. But she also walked the trail to define her battle against Parkinson's.

"Part of it was to show myself that I can keep moving and be part of something big," she says. "I want to be encouraging to other people with Parkinson's -- that you can set a goal and attain it."

That sort of attitude is important in battling the disease, say Parkinson's experts. And fostering that sort of attitude will be among the topics that Parkinson's experts will speak about at the Parkinson Center of Oregon's 29th annual Parkinson's disease symposium Saturday, Sept. 22, in Portland.

“Carol’s passion and energy for improving her own situation and helping others with Parkinson's at the same time is inspirational," says Jay Nutt, M.D., co-founder and director of the Parkinson Center of Oregon. "She also represents the positive attitude that will be presented by our speakers at the symposium. How one approaches the disease mentally and emotionally can make a great difference in how the disease affects your daily life."

Clupny will attend the symposium along with what is expected to be another 400 or more people -- most of them people with Parkinson's or people who care for them.

Among the symposium speakers will be Sierra Farris, a physician assistant and the director of medical fitness and the neuroperformance program at the Movement & Neuroperformance Center of Colorado in Englewood. Farris just led a group of people with Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis on a climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. She will speak about "redefining Parkinson's one step at a time."

The symposium's keynote speaker will be Vivek Unni, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of neurology at OHSU and the newest member of the Parkinson Center of Oregon. Unni will talk about his research into Parkinson's and how learning more about how the disease impacts the brain might lead to better treatments. The symposium will also include an "ask the experts" panel and a breakout discussion of people who are caregivers for people with Parkinson's.

“The symposium is a place where people, families, and health care professionals can learn from the experts about the latest treatments and therapies that can help them manage the impact of Parkinson’s disease," says Julie Carter, R.N., M.S., A.N.P., co-founder and associate director of the Parkinson Center. "But it is also a place where people with Parkinson's can be accepted, understood and inspired by others -- and can be an inspiration to others. All of this helps people keep facing down this disease."

The Parkinson's disease symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Red Lion Jantzen Beach at 909 N. Hayden Island Dr.

About OHSU

Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only academic health and research university. As Portland's largest employer with nearly 14,000 employees, OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support not found anywhere else in the state. OHSU serves patients from every corner of Oregon and is a conduit for learning for more than 4,300 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to each county in the state.