30 Days of Parkinson’s: A Parkinson’s Family Tree

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30 Days of Parkinson's

Photo courtesy of Diane Tunis

Day 1 of 30

This is Diane Tunis’ story:

I am 70 years old, a retired teacher, and have been married since 1975. I have two grown children and three granddaughters. I’m very fortunate to have my best friend and only sister Janice very close by.

I have been around Parkinson’s disease practically my whole life. My grandmother Sarah (and grandpa Morris) lived nearby and grandma was our babysitter. She was a strong, independent, working woman (award-winning sales). Then, my cousin was killed in a car accident and that’s when her life changed. She had a nervous breakdown and her health went downhill. First, her rheumatoid arthritis (and knee surgery) put her in a wheelchair. My mother, Lola, was her primary caregiver. Then the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease came.

It was still a burden for my mom to visit her every day at the old Hebrew Home in downtown Washington, D.C., so the decision was made to move her to a care facility in New York where her six sisters could share the responsibility of caregiving. My mother went to visit her every month for years. That was certainly a negative start to my impression and awareness of the effects of Parkinson’s disease on the person and the whole family. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that my grandma’s father had what people then called “palsy” — they didn’t use the term Parkinson’s back then.

Eventually, my grandma died. I went to college, got married, was a teacher, and had two kids. My mom and family then noticed some suspicious behaviors that included difficulty walking, lower voice tones, and tremors. Mom eventually received a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Then came many different meds, doctors, and live-in caregivers. The good news is that my mom continued to lead a busy and active life. That was certainly a very positive look at Parkinson’s and how it is not so debilitating. She played bridge and volunteered at the White House Comments Office. My mother attended White House functions, went to concerts at the Kennedy Center, exercised, completed two crossword puzzles a day, and watched “Jeopardy.” I’m grateful for her every day.

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

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