30 Days of PD: My Greatest Resource Is the Parkinson’s Community

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Lynne Sweilem

Photo courtesy of Lynne Sweilem

Day 23 of 30

This is Lynne Sweilem’s story:

The path my life has taken was a surprise even to me.

I was born with a perpetually positive outlook and resiliency. This led me to want a purpose-driven life helping others.

As I grew up, I happily found many ways to help others. Then, when it came time to choose my career, I decided to become a speech pathologist. I had found my calling — treating people with Parkinson’s disease. I became the Parkinson’s specialist in my department at work.

One day, things changed. I couldn’t lift my foot up to the bike pedal, I lost my balance on the stairs, and sometimes I felt like I was walking through concrete. I started to feel dread.

A good friend (a neurologist) mentioned that my walking looked a little off. He told me to see him for an exam. I went to the exam and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. My friend said “Lynne, it’s time to take care of yourself now, instead of others.” My purpose-driven life seemed over.

That was seven years ago. I thought I knew so much about treating the disease, but I’ve found that I didn’t even know the half of it.

I recognize now that the truest “experts” are the people who are living with Parkinson’s. My support groups have become my greatest resource and have helped me to cope. We all share with each other how we’re dealing with the disease.

Gradually my positive outlook has returned, and it is valuable. What’s also helped is the following advice:

Hope: When I have a positive attitude, I’m open to new ideas and hope. This is what gives me the motivation to exercise, eat well, prioritize sleep, and keep on going.

Self-care: When I get the urge to “caretake,” I try to remember to include myself as well. I have only so much energy, so I need to not burn myself out.

Community: Being in the Parkinson’s community and sharing with others is the best medicine I’ve found.

I have a new direction now for my purpose-driven life. Plus, I don’t have to do it alone anymore!

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.

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