Wednesday, September 28, 2011


My name is Michele Holderby, and I refused to let Parkinson's disease control my life.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson's at 45 years old. I cried all the way home. As a physical therapist, I knew what to expect from having worked with Parkinson's patients.

But I am pretty optimistic, so I was able get on with my life. I found the Parkinson's part I could live with. The worst was the dystonia. My arms would go up, and my head would arch back. It is really painful. It stretches and pulls at your muscles, and you can't do anything about it. It was stealing my life away.

Allow yourself to cry... but don't stay there.

So I went to the University of Florida Center for Movement Disorders & Neurorestoration in Gainesville, an NPF Center of Excellence, where I met Dr. Okun and Dr. Foote. Dr. Okun said they could help me, and I almost burst into tears.

In 2009, I underwent one deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, followed by a second outpatient surgery to install the battery pack in my chest. As soon as they started to test my limbs during the first surgery, I started giggling because I was so happy — they were moving my limbs and there was no stiffness! It was amazing. The difference between my life then and now is night and day.

If you have Parkinson's, you need to educate yourself. Know how to communicate with your healthcare team so you can help manage your own health. Keep hoping — there is always hope for a cure. Allow yourself to cry because it makes you feel better sometimes just to get that all out. But don't stay there and feel sorry for yourself, continue. It is a battle.

Parkinson's may be part of your life, but it doesn't have to take over your life.

Thanks to the generous support of friends like you, the National Parkinson Foundation can continue its life-changing work.


Michele Holderby

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