Patient, wife, mother, artist

I am a very active 35 year-old mother, wife and freelance artist. I met my husband, John, when I was in college 15 years ago. We met at the Farmer’s Market, he was selling bread, and there was something about him that made me go over and talk to him. That was our first conversation and the beginning of a wonderful life together. We love traveling, exploring new places together and enjoy our lives together. Five years ago we were blessed with our greatest gift, our daughter, Sarah. She has completed us, and our family and we feel grateful for each day we spend together. Finally, I have spent the past 11 years working as a freelance artist, specifically as a painter. My painting style is very technical. I work on many commissions for communities, businesses and individuals. A lot of times these projects require extensive research and time when I start designing the images. I have been honored to illustrate the history of Missoula, Montana, and the history of Missoula Catholic Schools to name a few. The images are technical and quite large.

A few years ago my drive as a wife, parent and artist started to dwindle. Very quickly I was unable to do simple tasks such as fold the laundry, or answer an e-mail, let alone handle the important and big responsibilities of my life. This wasn’t the person I was used to and I knew something was wrong. All of my symptoms were subtle and slowly I started to deteriorate. I went to doctors for nine months in almost every specialty in my hometown and as far away as the Mayo Clinic. It was the hardest time of my life. After a while I had the feeling that some of the people around me were thinking I needed to get on with life and that maybe it was more of something in my mind. I even felt that way with some of the doctors I visited. I was very lucky to have complete support from my core family and friends. They knew me and knew that I was ill, it was just a matter of time and we all hoped I would get an answer.

One day, a day that I expected it the least, I got my answer. I went in for a routine look at an MRI with my neurologist and left with my life changed. As she performed my exam I had changed to the point where my neurologist looked at me and said, “Hadley, I think we have been going about this the wrong way….maybe it’s Parkinson’s disease.” I left, went to my car and cried for 15 minutes. I cried for two reasons. One, I knew this was the true answer, and two, what would I tell my mother. My step-father had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s a year prior and I didn’t know how to tell my mom that she would now have another person close to her with the same disease. After a short time crying in the car, I realized this was it. This is the rest of the beginning of my life. This is my moment to show myself that I can make the most of my life and I could be the person I have always been—a determined, hard-working, passionate, wife, mother, daughter, friend and artist.

So, I picked myself up, and I saw the world with new eyes. I made a pact with myself. I would move forward! This is a gift. This is a gift of life. This is my opportunity to see the world with through a new lens and appreciate life with an appreciation that had long been lost. It is a gift to truly enjoy every second I spend with my daughter and my family. It is a gift to paint from a deeper place and enjoy each brush stroke and play of color on the canvas. It is a gift to have an opportunity to help others and give of myself to others. This is the most unexpected but most appreciated gift of my life!

So, as I move forward, I know there will be changes. I know I may not be able to physically do all of the things I am used to being able to do. I may have to change my paintings style. I may or may not be able to keep working on major historical painting commissions. That is all unknown and it is not something I spend my time speculating about. What I do know, is how I am today. That is my focus. I am hopeful about the future, but I am excited about today, and today, I am doing all of the things I have always done, and more. Today I am happy, living life to the fullest and feel closer to my family than I ever have. I have seen my husband stand by my side and support me in a way we never expected, and have fallen more in love with him. I have seen my daughter, as young as she is, give me the hugs and the love that carried me through the diagnosis process and gave me the strength to fight for an answer so I could be a better Mom. I have seen friends and family rise to the occasion and give me strength and help in ways I could never have imagined. I have seen the joy of living life and taking in every moment. This is what I carry with me into the future with my disease, the moments I am experiencing now, and that is what drives me to help others. I am grateful and thankful for my life and there is not a thing I would change about it, even Parkinson’s disease.

“I am hopeful about the future, but I am excited about today...” Click Photos to Enlarge Quality time with my daughter.

Quality time with my daughter.

Putting the finishing touches on <em>Standing Strong</em>.

Putting the finishing touches on Standing Strong.

My husband, John, and I at the Brian Grant Foundation Gala.

My husband, John, and I at the Brian Grant Foundation Gala.