Purple Community Blog

10 Apr 2017

Parkinson’s Awareness Month

April marks Parkinson’s Awareness Month, a time to spread awareness and honor those affected. At Purple Community, we would like to highlight one very special person, Alison Sheltrown. Alison serves as the Purple Community Cabinet Vice Chair, has recently been named the Quarterly Purple Community Angel in our volunteer program and is an overall wonderful spokesperson for Van Andel Institute.

Three years ago Alison was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. “It all started with pain,” Alison said.

“I had horrible pain, aching and stiffness on my right side. Like many with young onset Parkinson’s disease, I was misdiagnosed,” she said. “I went to physical therapy, had surgery to repair the damaged disc in my neck and thought that was my answer. This was in April, 2013.”

Not understanding what was happening, Alison went to see a chiropractor and then was referred to a different surgeon. Things changed quickly after that. “On December 18, 2013 my life changed forever. I heard the words ‘you have Parkinson’s Disease,’” Alison said.

Alison’s reaction was one of shock and confusion. “I didn’t know any women with this disease, much less anyone young and active,” she said.

At a crossroads, Alison realized that she had two choices. She could, “Give up and quit, allow [herself] to wallow in misery.” Or she could, “Choose to find the happiness where [she] can because then [she has] the good days to reflect on, which makes the bad not as bad.”

Alison chose the latter and continues to be hopeful. “While I battle anxiety, depression and pain—the silent parts of the disease—I’m not giving up,” Alison said. “I’ve been diagnosed almost 3 ½ years now and haven’t had any progression.”

At Van Andel Institute (VAI), a dedicated team of researchers are conducting ground-breaking studies on Parkinson’s. Funding for this research continues to be a priority. On average, it takes 10 years and a billion dollars to bring a new drug or treatment from the lab to a patient’s bedside. That’s why we are excited to team-up with Alison during April at events focused on raising funds for Parkinson’s disease research at VAI.

We invite you to join us for our event with Brush Studio in Downtown Grand Rapids, Painting for Parkinson’s, on Thursday, April 13. Grab your friends for a fun night of painting and drinks while supporting Parkinson’s disease research at VAI!

Alison will be volunteering at the race and would love to see you there on Saturday, April 29, at the Mary Free Bed YMCA. We are in need of a few more volunteers to help out during the race. If you’d like to participate, registration for the 5K is still available. Check out more details here.

“Research is the lifeline. It’s what gives us hope. At VAI, 100 percent of donations go to research—something that I’m so thankful for. VAI has the benefit of being small, which allows them to think outside the box. It feels good, too, knowing that it’s all happening here in West Michigan. I’m so proud of this city,” Alison said.