STEWIACKE – Shirley Schriver felt devastated when she was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2004.
She had always been an active person, working as a dental assistant for 21 years, raising a son and volunteering in her church. The disease just seemed to creep up on her.
“I was living in New Brunswick when I first noticed something wrong,” recalled Schriver, who now lives in Stewiacke. “My doctor thought it was essential tremors. After a couple of years he said I should get checked further and he sent me to Moncton where a neurologist diagnosed me with Parkinson’s.
“As devastated as I felt when I was given the news I was sure there was a reason for it and God would help me through it. My faith really helped me deal with things.”
Now 62 and no longer working, her hands tremble and she cannot walk as well as she used to but she is thankful that she can still walk.
Schriver is also not as likely to go out in crowds now because she is aware of people staring at her and wondering what is wrong, even thinking she might be drunk. Stress, whether good or bad, causes her tremors to worsen and because her balance is affected she often uses a cane.
She calls her husband John, who works at the Stewiacke Foodland, which is run by their son Darren, a “wonderful caregiver,” attends church regularly and tries to encourage others she sees facing difficulties.
“Something I remember hearing was that we have to remember we have Parkinson’s but we won’t let the disease have us,” she said. “I like to be useful and do my best to help others.”
One thing she is trying to do is organize a support group in Stewiacke for people with the disease. Depression often comes following a diagnosis and the life changes it can cause and Schriver feels that a support group in the community could be very helpful with emotional and physical issues. Anyone interested in being part of a support group can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
She feels Canadian actor Michael J. Fox has been very helpful in raising awareness around Parkinson’s by being so visible and speaking publicly.
Her son has organized local barbecues to raise awareness, as well as funds for research.
“There is research being done that’s really encouraging,” said Schriver. “They’re talking about a caffeine pill that might alleviate rigidity and about possible benefits of green tea.”
In September, Schriver is opening her home to Cory Welsh, who is cycling across Canada to raise money and awareness of the disease. She is also involved in the Parkinson SuperWalk, which will be held on Sept. 9.
No one else in her family has Parkinson’s and she does not know why she has it, but suspects the toxins in food and the atmosphere may play a part in causing it and other diseases.
“I take things day by day and don’t dwell on tomorrow,” she said. “There are positive things I can do and I like to focus on them.”
* First described in 1817 by Dr. James Parkinson
* A progressive brain disorder. Cells that carry dopamine, a chemical which controls movement, die and symptoms appear.
* Most common symptoms- tremors, slowness and stiffness, impaired balance, rigidity of muscles
* There is no cure but people can live with the disease for years.
* Symptoms are treated with medication but will worsen over time.
* Therapies which may help manage symptoms - physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, exercise