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Living with Parkinson’s

NW Parkinson’s conference offers model for living life fully

In early October the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation (NPF) held its 12th Annual Hope Conference at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. According to Melissa Tribelhorn, MPA, Interim Executive Director, about 500 people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and their caregivers attended and another 1,000 from around the world watched online Northwest and the world.

“Parkinson’s is not a death sentence,” said Tribelhorn in her kickoff speech. “Our mission is simple – to live as well as possible and help bridge the gap between diagnosis and the cure. In short, we want to Move, Connect and Engage.”

Speaker’s “truths” resonate with all

Keynote speaker Allison Toepperwein, a single mom who got diagnosed with PD at age 37, told about her journey. She shared how tremendous stress and a car accident possibly exacerbated the onset PD. She also shared how exercise and ultimately participating on the television show American Ninja Warrior helped her see that despite tremors and pain, she can do most anything she sets her heart on.

Toepperwein told how the tremors started in 2010 several years after a car accident caused a bad head injury. By 2014 it was hard to ignore the undeniable symptoms of left hand and left side shakes, choking, slurring words and uncontrollable leg movements. When family observed that the young mother shook so badly that she couldn’t cut her daughter’s meat, Toepperwein finally saw a neurologist.

Those first months were terrible, but Toepperwwein said she eventually came to embrace three truths of life: We are born, live and die. “We have no control over the first and last bookends, but we do have control over the middle and it’s all about choices.”

As a means to taking control over the middle, living part, Toepperwein started blogging and exercising. Over weeks and months she went from walking around the track holding onto the railing to participating in her first “mud run,” a seven mile, 25 obstacle event that pushed her to the limit, “But I did it!” So fierce was Toepperwein, people suggested she try out for American Ninja Warrior.

Now, after 8 years dealing with PD, Toepperwein observed that sure, she hurts and she gets exhausted, but it’s not what PD has taken away from her that’s important. What is important is that she has learned that functioning well is a matter of choice. “I am grateful for what I do have and I am grateful that I have the power to push the death bookend away.”

By way of conclusion, Toepperwein asked the assembly to think about their lives and many blessings, concentrate on that and see how life changes, “I want to challenge each of you to be vulnerable, never look back and enjoy the middle!”

Did you know? About 100,000 people in the Northwest have PD.

For more information: Call 206-748-9481 or visit

To checkout the conference, please visit:

Words of Wisdom

There’ll be two dates on your tombstone and all your friends will read ’em but all that’s gonna matter is that little dash between ’em. ~ Kevin Welch

Reprinted from: Andelcare Newsletter October 2017

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