Dear Dr. James Parkinson,
After experiencing symptoms that would come and go throughout five years, and for which I eventually decided that I needed to be seen by a physician, I was diagnosed with the disease that bears your name. At age 42, my life changed for good because it was then that I had a name to associate with what I had been experiencing. It was unfortunate that I found out it was your disease namesake. It was fortunate that I could move forward and focus on improving the health-related quality of life, not only for myself but for countless others.
Your name has been heralded for reasons that only those of us diagnosed can do because our condition has a name and we have the power within ourselves to do something about it.
Your name has also received much vitriol because of what can’t be done about it yet, and that is to exclaim a breakthrough that can keep your name only in the history books, and not pronounced out loud.
Your insight and candor in your writing of “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy” was not only a result of keen observation, but also a call to action to do something about a debilitating condition. Your description of the condition continues to be one of, if not, the best way to describe what this neurodegenerative condition is all about.
I think you’d be pleased with the advancements made in treating Parkinson’s Disease. Highly respected and committed researchers and clinicians such as Paul Greengard, Stanley Fahn, Joseph Jankovic, William Langston,Patrik Brundin, Huda Zoghbi, among many others have made and continue making contributions to finding answers. Major discoveries made by those that have changed the trajectory for a breakthrough truly are astounding.
As advocates, individuals such as Michael J. Fox, whom could very well stay out of the public eye but whose vision, leadership, and commitment has helped move the needle toward finding the elusive cure by his founding of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and becoming the world’s largest non-profit funder of research.
As we come to the 200th anniversary of your essay, my prayer is that the diligent work undertaken by so many around the world, whose focus is on finding relief for all associated with Parkinson’s Disease, will reap much needed benefits.
The human brain that allows many gifts by way of talent and incredible learning is also the organ that we are trying to decipher, which provides an irony of sorts. The more we know and discover, the more we realize its complexity.
Thank you for your insight and willingness to help those in your lifetime and I look forward to writing again soon to let you know that a breakthrough that leads to a cure has been discovered.
p.s. It truly is a small world when I can share with you that a dear friend of mine, whom also lives with Parkinson’s Disease, actually worked as a researcher before his diagnosis, in the same lab you worked in during your tenure.