I am not a patient living with Parkinson’s or any other devastating disease. I am one of the fortunate ones, truly blessed. My story is that of a caregiver. My husband, Todd, was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s in 2004 at the age of 41. During those first few years, like so many other Parkinson’s patients, his symptoms began with a twitch, followed by involuntary tremors. We found out early on that Parkinson’s is often diagnosed through a process of elimination by ruling out other neurological diseases, such as ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Todd’s diagnosis was a scary time in our lives. We had a young child. I was in my late 30’s and Todd was 41 years young. Initially, we hid the disease from our daughter, our families and our friends. Perhaps our thought process at the time was avoidance and “it” would go away or so we wished. As hard as it was, we finally accepted the reality of the disease and disclosed it to others. A weight was lifted off our shoulders – no more hiding or pretending everything was alright.
Due to Todd’s love for golf, he immediately went into action and created a non-profit organization called “Making the Turn Against Parkinson’s” to help raise funds to benefit other local Parkinson’s patients. To date, Making the Turn has raised over $125,000 through an annual golf outing that takes place in our hometown of Williamston, Michigan. These funds have been used to subsidize an exercise program designed specifically for Parkinson’s patients in partnership with the Sparrow Michigan Athletic Club (MAC) in East Lansing. Making the Turn is also the only non-profit organization in Michigan granting college scholarships specifically to young adults who have a family member struggling with Parkinson’s. So far, Making the Turn has awarded $15,000 to students from families impacted by this disease.
Todd’s passion for helping others living with Parkinson’s to have a better quality of life inspired me to do the same. When I heard about Team Hope through the Van Andel Institute (VAI) and their effort to raise money for Parkinson’s and cancer research, I knew this would be my new ambition. My passion for running could be used to raise money by being a member of VAI’s Team Hope in the 2018 Chicago Marathon. With the support of my sister, Ann Schneider, and great friend, Tammy Anderson, we dedicated the majority of 2018 training in the snow, heat and rain preparing for October 7, 2018 – the Chicago Marathon.
I found a quote early on in my training that I revisited often during my journey to the marathon. It completely put things into perspective during those long, tiring training runs when my body was pushed to its limits. It reads, “I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can’t run, what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me.”
I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have run alongside other VAI Team Hope champions. We truly are a team of hope, connected by our passion to raise money and awareness for others inflicted by a devastating disease. I will never forget my Chicago Marathon experience and the chance to run for others that truly would give anything for this “simple gift”.