• February 4, 2014

Life Lessons

Before meeting Heather, my knowledge of Parkinson’s Disease could  solely be attributed to hearing the latest celebrity goss about Michael J Fox. Not only did I reap valuable knowledge into the progressive movement disorder but I have met a lady with a radiant energy who is a pillar of strength, a positive spirit and incredibly generous. My purpose initially was to find out as much about Parkinson’s as I could, gain an insight into how Heather felt when she was diagnosed and how she is feeling today. Instead, without her realisation, in the four meetings I had with her, I took away much more than just a blog for Green Scene but a series of golden life lessons.

#1. Trust your intuition.

“It all started out as a twitch on the right side of my body which then developed into a severe tremor. As a retired nurse, I suspected it might have been Parkinson’s Disease and my GP referred me to a Neurologist. Following an MRI and nerve conduction test, the Neurologist diagnosed Parkinson’s Disease.”

#2. When faced in a difficult situation, do not give up. A sense of humour is essential throughout life’s challenges.

“Today I’m feeling great. In September 2013, I had brain surgery (deep brain stimulation) which is known as DBS. I had been taking medication three hourly but hardly take any medication now (only in the morning and night.) I have more stamina and feel so much better. I found DBS a challenging journey but worth the trauma as my quality of life has improved considerably. It helps to laugh and enjoy the gift of life.”

#3.  Start a cause and take a leap of faith (literally!)


“With encouragement from my husband, I started a singing group in March 2013 which is under the umbrella of Parkinson’s Victoria, (a support group.) A small steering committee was established and it was decided that we would meet on the third Thursday of every month. It’s so beneficial as it is not uncommon for Parkinson sufferers to have difficulties with speech, swallowing and eating.”

(“I just wanted to do something different, that’s a part of who I am. For example, a couple of years ago, in celebration of turning 70, I did a tandem skydive to raise money and awareness of Parkinson’s.”)

“We had a few venue options but when I walked into the Williamstown Mechanic’s Institute, I knew straight away that this was a gem as it’s warm and comfortable. The encouragement and support of Hobson’s Bay City Council, former Mayor, Angela Altair, Arts Facilitator, Loraine Callow and my dear friends who have contributed and set up the afternoon tea for the singing group has been invaluable.  We have also linked in with University of Melbourne’s Master students of Speech Pathology. The singing group is led by Douglas Heywood, OAM and his wife, Alex Cameron who accompanies him on keyboard. They are incredibly generous.”

#4. Always pursue your passions.

“From a long term perspective, my experiences have greatly shaped the person who I am today and have helped in co-leading the singing group, ParkinSong Victoria with my husband.”

“The exciting factor for me and (other Parky People) is the dedication, enthusiasm and generosity of the number of young professionals and volunteers who have chosen to dedicate themselves to finding an answer for Parkinson’s Disease. They are special people and I do what I do as my way of saying thank you.”

#5. The State and Federal Government needs to dig deeper.

“Parkinson’s Victoria is absolutely not receiving enough funding, there is miniscule help from State and nothing Federally. We are not going to accept politicians throwing out figures and trying to bluff their way through. It’s not good enough!”

To find out more about Parkinson’s visit www.parkinsonsvic.org.au.

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