Patient, Therapist, Blogger
I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in my teens, colon cancer in my 20’s, and Parkinson’s disease at age 32. I am no stranger to challenges. After three years of living with the symptoms of PD, I decided to undergo deep brain stimulation surgery (DBS), a treatment developed to reduce tremors and involuntary movements in people with Parkinson’s and other motion disorders. It was at that moment that I resolved to turn my experience with illness into something positive by giving back to families who struggle with neurological disorders.
As a licensed marriage and family therapist in California, I work at a neurology and movement disorder clinic with clients and families experiencing chronic illness, chronic pain, and health and fitness issues. I am a personal trainer, certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and a certified PWR! Moves instructor.
In 2010, I decided to combine my professional expertise with my personal experience, and launched the program "Parkinson’s in Balance," which offers support groups, fitness classes and social events at no charge to people with Parkinson’s. In 2013, I started the "Perky Parkie" blog, which shares the humorous, and ironic moments of my adventures with Parkinson’s.
When people ask me, “How have you stayed strong while enduring the decline of your health at such a young age?” My response is, “Lots of frozen yogurt and being able to laugh at myself.” While there’s some truth to the power of frozen treats, I have to acknowledge that I couldn’t have made it through the dark times without my family, friends, and a positive attitude sprinkled with humor. Of course, there are days that I don’t want to get out of bed and face what is ahead. But I believe that I am going through these challenges for a reason: If my story can help someone who is facing an illness, then I’ve found meaning in my life. As long as there is air in my rigid, slow body, I will seek out strategies to stay strong and give hope to others with Parkinson’s.
Allison Smith, Age 38, USA
Living with Young Onset Parkinson’s