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Faces on my wall connect past to present, keeping memories alive


It seems a lifetime ago when I arrived on the Parkinson's scene fearful of what the future held for me, and hungry for whatever knowledge, coping strategies, and experiences others with Parkinson's were willing to share. At some point, when I wasn't looking, I became an "old timer" myself, teaching newbies, as others had taught me, to face this progressive, incurable disease with courage and grace, giving them the confidence to try new things, as well as old things, in different ways.

Lining my office walls are photographs of many relatives, friends, doctors, and therapists who have helped me to live well with Parkinson's for 17 years. It takes a village to achieve this, and these are my "village people." Frozen in time, before Parkinson's left us with expressionless faces, are my fellow advocates as I remember them from an online grassroots group (the Parkinson Pipeline Project) which challenged big pharma and the government to do right by patients. At the top of our wish list was a seat at the table where decisions were being made for and about us, without us.

Instead of allowing Parkinson's to limit what we could do, we found new purpose for our lives, did things we never dreamed of doing, and forged friendships that have withstood the test of time and chronic illness. Accomplishing things we think we cannot do, gives us renewed strength and courage to keep fighting.All these years later, the early Pipeliners remain among my closest friends. In the darkness of the night, when the nightmares come, we find each other on line and chat until the sun comes up and the world seems brighter again. In the words of Mark Twain: "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear."

old friends in pictures on the wall

The worst part of living with Parkinson's is helplessly watching friends in more advanced stages decline before their time; knowing that absent a miracle cure, our fate will be the same. This is the sad reality we live with. What helps make it bearable is knowing that new advocates are prepared to take the leadership baton and run with it, keeping alive the memories of the many who came before us and moving us ever closer to the cure.

I am reminded of singer, song writer Sally Fingerett's, Faces On My Wall ©2004:

"To these faces on my wall, I will protect you.

I make a vow to hold you dear – I'll speak your name year after year

Your voice will echo in my ear, you left your lessons here inside my head."

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