Personal Stories

Sharing Hope In Parkinson’s

Sharing Hope In Parkinson’s

Penny Wigglesworth
Marblehead, MA

My mother was my hero in so many ways!  She accepted and dealt with Parkinson’s disease with dignity and humor. She never complained about what she couldn’t do, but was grateful for what she could do. Both she and her brother had Parkinson’s and often laughed together as they compared notes on their shakiness, etc.

My great-grandmother and her brother also had Parkinson’s.  I loved my great-grandmother, “Mama”!  While her head constantly shook from side to side, she would say, “Dear, I’m really saying yes, but my head just always says no”. Mama’s brother was a doctor who had to give up his practice, and my mother would smile while telling me that he was the only one who could give Mama a shot because they both shook the same way!  Telling me that dear story wasn’t making fun of the disease, but having fun with it!

A local cardiologist shared with me his Parkinson’s diagnosis and his struggle with acceptance of the condition. He was aware of the ongoing support gatherings for cancer, bereavement, and care giving being held in my home, and he presented the idea of our offering Parkinson’s support as well. I didn’t realize at the time that I would become a participant rather than a facilitator of the group. We created as a logo a sailboat navigating rough waters while remaining encircled by the solid strength of a ship’s steering wheel. We named our group “S.H.I.P.” (Sharing Hope in Parkinson’s) and our slogan is:

“Friends helping friends find their bearings and chart their course”

At one of our earlier Parkinson’s gatherings, I asked a guest neurologist what the difference was between Parkinson’s and simply old-age symptoms, and then commented that I had some of the “warning signals” that the people in the group were talking about. Considering my family history, he suggested I make a medical appointment. While only ten to fifteen percent of Parkinson’s is caused by heredity, I found myself part of that small percentage.
 
My somewhat weird sense of humor really helps me!  After my diagnosis, I went back to our group and told them that I must have “caught” Parkinson’s from them!  Because my own voice had become so soft, I thought all my friends were having hearing problems. When my handwriting started to become much smaller, I thought this was a good thing because now I could fit my entire (Wigglesworth) last name on one line! But now I need a magnifying glass to read my “to-do” list!  

When diagnosed, I wasn’t really surprised or upset because I had such good family members as role models to follow. We aren’t in control of a lot of things, but we are in control of how we deal with them, so I live life to the fullest!  I am 70, a widow, have 4 married children, and 10 grandchildren. I find daily purpose in my life by helping others through the friendships and programs offered in my home as part of our all-volunteer, non-profit Penny Bear organization (www.pennybear.org).


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