Advocacy Series: What you need to know about Parkinson's Disease

Wow. The first week of my new and improved blog - something that I am super proud of - has been heartwarming. I received so many sweet messages from my closest friends telling me they were proud of me - or that they loved following along. I also received tons of messages about things to blog about - from Parkinson's Disease to shopping at Abercrombie! HAH! So, thank you ALL for the feedback!

With that being said, the most frequently made comment was about Parkinson's Disease and if I would write a blog post about what it is, why I advocate for it, etc. So - here ya have it! If you are here for only fashion - I'm sorry - but I totally intend to use this platform to VOICE the need for a cure to Parkinson's Disease. My hope is that by sharing this information with you - you will join my fight to find better treatments for those living with Parkinson's Disease and even better - a CURE! 

Instead of making this a ton of paragraphs, I thought it would be easier if I wrote this in a Q&A format. 

What is Parkinson's Disease? Parkinson's Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the dopamine producing neurons in a specific area of the brain - the substantia nigra. Dopamine is a "messenger" that is responsible for transmitting signals to the brain in regards to movement. Loss of dopamine means less control of movement. Symptoms include tremor, small writing, slow movement, and balance problems among others. The progression of symptoms vary from person to person. There is a saying in the PD community that when you have seen one person with Parkinson's Disease, you have seen one person with Parkinson's Disease. There is no cure for Parkinson's Disease but there are treatments, medications and surgery (deep brain stimulation) options available that help control the symptoms.

How do you get Parkinson's Disease? Well, this is the million dollar question. Right now, the cause remains unknown. There is evidence that indicates it could be caused by genes - and there is also quite a bit of research that indicates it could be triggered by environmental factors or even a combination of both. This is why it is so important to raise funds for high-impact research. We are learning new information every day including the fact that genes may play a more important role that initially thought.

How do I get diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease? There is no definitive test to diagnose Parkinson's Disease - no blood test, brain scan, etc. Your doctor should conduct an exam and watch for symptoms - including a resting tremor. More often than not, your doctor may give you a Parkinson's medication and see if there is any relief in your symptoms. If there is relief, that is a clear indication that you may have Parkinson's Disease. Since there is no test, patients may go misdiagnoses or even not diagnosed at all. I expect that over the next several years, the population of folks with Parkinson's Disease will dramatically increase.

What do I do if a family member has Parkinson's Disease? This seems obvious - but my first tip would be to get prepared. And by this I mean, read everything you can about PD. You need to figure out what stage - if you will - your loved one is at with their disease and develop a plan. For example, if your loved one is still capable of exercising, come up with a plan that involves exercise. I plan on diving into exercise deeper in a future post, but know that exercise is very important when living with PD. I also recommend joining a support group or even a group of caretakers. Not only will this help you gain some real hands-on knowledge but it will also be relatable and provide a source of positivity. Most importantly, caretakers need to take care of themselves first. Stay active in the gym, eat clean - you won't be able to take care of your loved one if you aren't mentally and physically able. The Michael J Fox Foundation and The Parkinson's Foundation are great resources of information!

I see all this Team Fox stuff, what is Team Fox? I am definitely going to dig deeper into this, too - in a future post. Team Fox is a grassroots fundraising organization that raises money for The Michael J Fox Foundation. People all over the country do (crazy) things like run marathons, high altitude hikes and triathlons to raise money for a cure. There are some really fun events. If you would like to support my team (Fighting Foxes), click here.

If you can't already tell, finding a cure to Parkinson's Disease is very important to me. I wanted to keep these questions high level and plan to continue this advocacy series.

XO. ck