We are grateful to Parkinson’s Fitness program participant, Laurie Grieves, for allowing us to share excerpts from her personal story spoken during our November 3, 2016 second annual fundraiser.
“When Linda asked me to speak at tonight’s spectacular event, I froze! Many things ran through my head in that instant:
• would I do the opportunity justice?
• would I speak clearly?
• would I be understood?
• would I fall ?
• would I freeze?
Then I remembered who I would be speaking to, and I was sure that there would be much understanding. So please, bear with me.
I’m Laurie Grieves and I’m married to Bob Grieves. As a matter of fact, we were married in this very room. …Bob and I live in Peabody with Lucy and Wendell, our dog and cat. (Some of you have met Lucy!) I have 4 wonderful adult children – John, Cara , Alex and Luke – and 3 spectacular granddaughters – Lyla, Ruby and Veda, who live in Atlanta with John and his wife Jenny. God bless the creator of Facetime. Now, if only we had Tickletime and Hugtime as well…but I’m sure that’s coming!
I’ve led a fairly traditional life. Of course, that was until 8 or 9 years ago, when I got the Parkinson’s diagnosis. After nearly a year of searching for answers at the insistence of my sister, who swore that I was shuffling, walking hunched over, and looked angry all the time – I thought it was just my bossy big sister being bossy – I decided to check it out.
I remember, when the neurologist said the words “I’m sure you have Parkinson’s”, that my automatic response was “GET OUT!!!!”, and I struggled with an uncontrollable urge to giggle! He droned on about the symptoms (of Parkinson’s) and he recommended only one single website that he knew of. I brushed him off and went home to figure out how to shake this thing.
After the customary tears, I settled in and just ignored the changes taking place in my body. They were slow but I knew they were there. I would occasionally search the internet for information. But I either found “snake oil remedies” or something unattainable, such as an early-afternoon support group at the local senior center. I was 50 years old and working at the time, so I was unable to go to the senior center during the day. To be honest, the idea of going was less than appealing. But things weren’t going as well as I’d hoped.
I used to have a little sign in my kitchen that read: “God doesn’t promise you a smooth road, but often times He puts springs in the wagon”. I was certainly experiencing rough roads and wondering, “So, where are the springs for my wagon.”
I retired from my job when the burden of paperwork and memory issues got to be too much. I didn’t feel I was up to any job after that. The disease began to progress and time spent inside our house began to grow. I kept saying, “There have to be other people like me out there!” Finally, one day in my frustration, I typed in an internet search for “Peabody-Exercise-Parkinson’s” and up came www.parkinsonsfitness.org. The website was only a couple of months old at the time, so I still feel really lucky to have found them that day!
I attended my first class at the Danvers COA and, boy, was I surprised! What a great place and full of life and energy. I was greeted by this tiny lady with a huge smile and infectious laugh – we know her as Linda – and my anxiety evaporated! And on that first day everyone kept talking about someone named Marilyn – Marilyn is on vacation – Marilyn needed a vacation day, etc. I kept thinking, who is this Marilyn and why does she need a vacation day so much? When I finally met her, I understood. She, like the others, just doesn’t stop! I have also had the pleasure of honing my boxing skills under the direction of Keith Hall!
The dedication and commitment shown by this team is remarkable. Whether they are teaching a class of 2 or 22 people, the intensity is the same. They take our health as seriously as we do – maybe even sometimes more so! They are constantly introducing us to new ideas about battling this beast of a disease and there is no snake oil here!
If you told me 10 years ago that I would be dancing, African drumming, volunteering for research studies, attending seminars, bowling, exercising, and singing with a group of people I had never met before, I would have said, “GET OUT!!!” Parkinson’s Fitness is more than an exercise program. It also provides people with a supporting social network that augments the clinical aspects of this disease. We are all weathering this storm and traveling this journey together, and Parkinson’s Fitness has certainly blazed a path for us to follow. Thank you to the team for everything you do. You have truly made a difference in my life and you are the springs in my wagon.”
And we thank YOU, Laurie, for sharing your positive attitude every time you’re with us!
Sharing your story at the fundraiser took courage and grace…and you truly showed both!