30 Days of PD: My Aunt Is a Living Legend

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by BNS Staff |

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managing Parkinson's disease | Parkinson's News Today | Jessie M.F. with her aunt, Mari

Victoria Madrigal (left) with a young Jessie M.F. Photo courtesy of Jessie M.F.

Day 24 of 30

This is Jessie M.F.’s story:

I have 10 aunts, four on the British side of my family, six on the Spanish side. Among my Spanish aunts, one of them is particularly special. I knew she was no ordinary aunt from a very young age, when I found out that while she’d been telling everyone she was called Maria — “Mari” for short — her real name was Victoria. That was the first time I ever saw someone reject a label they’d been given, and take control of their identity.

My aunt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a couple of years ago. And while the #30DaysOf PD project is my excuse to write about her, being a Parkinson’s patient is neither a label she wants, nor is it one you think of when you know her.

To me, Mari is a fashion icon, and not just at wearing clothes, but at making them. She worked as a seamstress for many years. I own a thick, tweed winter coat that was handmade by her. I also own a jacket she constructed from the tail of her wedding gown. In fact, she turned that wedding dress into two different garments. She never stopped working even after the seamstress jobs dried up.

She raised two wonderful boys who are now two of my favorite cousins. In her 60s, she started studying digital photography. She is also a colon cancer survivor.

My mother is no longer with us so I miss having a maternal role model, yet Mari fills that role. She taught me how healing it is to wear bright lipstick or to dress up when the world seems against you. She is the embodiment of resilience and living life fully. She also insists I send her handwritten letters, while she sends me voice messages on WhatsApp.

I am so proud of her. She is trying everything to handle this disease, from exercise to following the right treatment. I know she struggles sometimes, but I hope she knows that so many of us continue to admire and respect the woman she has become.

To me, she is much more than someone living with a chronic disease. She is an icon of a woman. The fact that she continues to be her true self while managing Parkinson’s disease only makes her more of a living legend to me, her nieces and nephews, and children and grandchildren.

Parkinson’s News Today’s 30 Days of PD campaign will publish one story per day for Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month in April. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofPD, or read the full series.