We All Have the Potential to Be Parkinson’s Disease Heroes

23 September 2022

parkinson's disease heroes | Parkinson's News Today | Banner for "Life, Lemons, and Lemonade" by Lori DePorter

Growing up, many of us considered our heroes to be Mom, Dad, or anyone who wore a nifty cape. Now, as adults, we tend to find the heroes among us by focusing more on a person’s character. As actor Christopher Reeve — who played Superman on screen before being paralyzed from the shoulders down from a broken neck — once said, “I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

As a person with young-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD), I think it’s heroic when celebrities and public figures with Parkinson’s openly share their stories or even establish foundations. Their collective effort increases awareness and puts a spotlight on the disease, affecting the entire community, but especially those of us with YOPD, who often find it overwhelming to share our diagnosis.

One celebrity commonly associated with the disease is Michael J. Fox. However, Fox, diagnosed in 1991 at 29, didn’t publicly share his diagnosis until 1998. He then launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in 2000. Since then, Team Fox has included many celebrity Parkinson’s warriors, including Jimmy Choi, Fox Ninja.

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Choi, diagnosed with YOPD in 2003, heroically represented the Parkinson’s community on “America Ninja Warrior” for five years. In his final Ninja Warrior run at the 2022 Family Championship, he competed with his cousin Miinkay and his daughter, Karina. (I encourage you to watch the video and listen to the song.)

The run started, and Choi watched his teammates attempt the first two legs. The remaining obstacles were his to complete, and he made it, hitting the elusive buzzer for the first time ever.

With tears in his eyes, Choi went from being a hero in the Parkinson’s community to a legend for anyone watching the show. Why? Because his family was by his side, helping him to complete the course — a shining example of how support from loved ones can change the outcome and enable us to achieve our dreams.

Who are the heroes in your life?

We all have them — ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the benefit of others. I want to share two of the many heroes in my life who offer support on my journey with Parkinson’s disease.

Three years ago, my neurologist introduced me to a fellow Parkinson’s warrior, Elizabeth, who has since become my friend. Recently, testing revealed that she and several of her family members have a rare genetic marker that’s been linked to the disease.

Elizabeth is fearless in her fight against Parkinson’s, but we’ve talked about not wanting to reach the point of being so far gone that we give up the fight. However, I’m not worried because I know that’s not her style. She will rest, but she’ll never quit. This heroine is fighting for herself and her family. Her perseverance and tenacity can benefit anyone facing a genetic component to their diagnosis.

The other hero is my dad. I call him Batman, though he doesn’t wear a cape and no longer drives a car. Alzheimer’s disease has taken so much from him, but Batman is still my superhero and my dad. He can make me smile when I want to cry. How does he do it? Honestly, I don’t know, but I’m grateful for the good days and our time together. He has touched many lives, and everybody who knows him loves him. He will always be Dad, Pap-Pap, and Bernie: the Man, the Myth, and the Legend.

Until next time, I encourage all of you reading to use your potential. Become a hero. I invite you to thank the heroes in your life by sharing a comment or visiting our forums.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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