Parkinson's group organizes Walk in the Park Sept. 15
And on Sept. 15, the Granite State chapter of the American Parkinson's Disease Association will hold its third annual Walk in The Park, at Greeley Park in Nashua.
“Each year we grow and we do better, and we're looking forward to this continuing to happen,” said an energized Chamberlain, president of the APDA's chapter here.
The proceeds from the event will go towards Parkinson's research, something many patients are confident will lead to a cure for the debilitating ailment.
“I have a lot of hope, because without hope you can't think about tomorrow,” said Chamberlain, who had been a first grade teacher in Derry for more that 25 years.
Often, however, the hope must surmount the evidence.
“When I was diagnosed I was told within 10 years there'd be a cure,” she said. “And that 10 years has come and gone and I haven't seen it.”
But the research has gone a long way, bringing new treatments and new facts about the disease, whose cause remains a mystery.
Chamberlain said it has been proven that riding a tandem bicycle, with the caregiver in the front, forces the Parkinson's patient to pedal harder than he or she normally would. This can relieve symptoms for up to a whole day, she said.
And there are other treatments as well. But Chamberlain said one of the most important activities is talking about what you're experiencing, whether it's good, bad, or indifferent. “You have to have patience, you have to be a good listener, and you have to really understand what they're saying in order to help them.”
Parkinson's, a progressive disorder affecting the central nervous system, affects 1.5 million Americans. And it affects them in different ways. For some — like actor Michael J. Fox and boxer Muhammad Ali — the symptoms are visually apparent. According to the APDA, symptoms also include spontaneous movements, gait difficulty, postural instability, rigidity and tremor.
But symptoms can also be cognitive, like trouble with diction, reading, or projecting one's voice clearly. Some are inhibited from speaking entirely.
Mortality rates among patients are twice those of unaffected people.
There's also the misconception that Parkinson's only affects the elderly. Not true, Chamberlain says. A growing number of young people are being diagnosed. And because of the increased life expectancy in the country, the incidence of Parkinson's, like many other diseases, is on a steady climb.
Through the APDA's work, and through the six support groups in the state, Chamberlain hopes not only for the cure, but to bring salve to those struggling with the disease.
“I feel as though I really am reaching out to many families with a member who has Parkinson's, to their caregivers, to their friends and teaching them all there is to know about Parkinson's,” she said.
The organization also provides respite care, allowing caregivers to take a break and have time to themselves.
The event is open to everyone. Registration begins at 10 a.m. at the Greeley Park band shell, with the walk beginning at 11 and the event ending around 2 p.m.
The route around the park is just short of two miles. Participants can walk as far as they like, either doing part of the route, or doing the route several times over.
There will be raffles, face-painting, and T-shirts depicting a tulip, the symbolic flower of the fight against Parkinson's disease. There will also be a booth where participants can make signs to take along the walk.
Entertainment will be provided by The Stonewell Trio.
For more information, call Maureen Chamberlain at 434-6252.
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