Long path to Parkinson’s diagnosis leads woman to new outlook
This is Kimberly Campeta’s story:
Ironically, I think I’m happier since my Parkinson’s diagnosis, which I know sounds strange. I imagine it’s because I no longer take life’s blessings for granted. I realize how lucky I am to have been active and fit for most of my life. I’m also determined to stay positive.
I was diagnosed just after my 57th birthday in 2020. But one of my first symptoms, loss of smell, started probably 10 years earlier. I’d looked to one ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) and then another for answers. Parkinson’s wasn’t even on my radar.
Then I started having issues with constipation, even though I drank tons of water, ate healthy, and exercised regularly. I had a colonoscopy and all checked out, except the constipation continued, and worsened.
In 2016, I saw a podiatrist because I had spasms in my feet during exercise, and they hurt no matter what shoes I wore.
I felt off-balance and dizzy, especially in small spaces. My hands and feet would feel ice cold, despite wearing three pairs of socks. I was cold one minute, overheated the next. I underwent testing with a rheumatologist, then a cardiologist, but got no real answers.
At some point, a light bulb went off in my head about loss of smell being an early nonmotor symptom of Parkinson’s. I went back to my neurologist, who prescribed Xanax and talk therapy. I was frustrated and discouraged. I knew my symptoms were real.
A second opinion also ruled out Parkinson’s. I cried — not in relief, but because in my heart I knew the doctors were wrong, and my symptoms weren’t being validated.
They got worse. I shuffled while walking. My arms ached, especially at night. I had such right shoulder pain I had to sleep exclusively on my left side. At Thanksgiving, I couldn’t peel potatoes. I started shouting in my sleep.
I worried about my job as an elementary school teacher. Loss of fine motor skills meant my fingers couldn’t separate students’ papers. My voice cracked when I read aloud. I relied on speech-to-text for computer work, since I could no longer type.
Finally, I made another appointment — with my current neurologist. She ordered a DaTscan, which none of the other doctors had even mentioned, that showed dopamine loss in my brain, consistent with Parkinson’s.
I had a diagnosis: a brain disorder with no cure. But now it was a relief because I finally knew what was happening to my body.
Am I really happier since my diagnosis? In some ways, yes. I don’t waste time being pessimistic. I’m much more grateful for my husband and two children, my friends, co-workers, and doctors. I know my disease is progressive. But I’m determined to make the best of it.
I do yoga every morning. I walk and count my steps. I’m taking golf lessons. I sing (Taylor Swift) in the car. I continue to work full-time. I make a point to always be kind.
So far, it seems to be working!
In recognition of Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April, the Parkinson’s Community Spotlight campaign features a series of stories highlighting the real-life experiences of people affected by Parkinson’s disease written in their own words. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #ParkinsonsSpotlight, or read the full series.