Tuesday, April 30, 2013
From PPAC: Parkinson's Isn't Newsworthy ... Until It Personally Touches You
April is Parkinson's Awareness Month. And it won't be newsworthy that I came all the way from Tennessee to New York to participate in this past Saturday's Parkinson’s Unity Walk, where about 10,000 people with Parkinson's, friends and family "walked" through Central Park as a symbolic gesture to raise funding for research.
As a member of the Parkinson's Disease Foundation's (PDF) Advisory Council, it isn't newsworthy that I am also here as a voice of the patient in helping to have better and faster approval of therapies for the debilitating illness. PDF adopts the promise of a cure by creatively incorporating the opinion of those who actually live with the disease into the research program. After all, who wants to find a cure more than the patient? We met with PDF, the oldest established Parkinson's non-profit organization, for the final two days of last week.
But it should be newsworthy that Lizzie Graham was there from across the pond. Graham is Director of Fundraising and Global Communications of the European Parkinson's Disease Association (EPDA) from the UK. Maybe with the two group's collaboration we will make some headway.
What does it take to be newsworthy? Finding a cure would definitely be great news. The gold standard treatment is a pill discovered over 40 years ago. We won't find a cure this year. One reason is the cutting of funding from the NIH budget due to sequestration. Another is the lack of participants in clinical trials for Parkinson's.
It isn't newsworthy that this year marks my 20th year with the disease. But it may be newsworthy that this is my 13th year of having been one of six people in the world who allowed transplantation of retinal cells into my brain from a donor eye in hopes of producing dopamine, the chemical my brain lacks. However, the trial was halted several years later due to not meeting its endpoints.
Parkinson's is more than a tremor or immobility. Many are plagued with non-motor symptoms such as depression, psychosis and dementia, creating an economic burden of over $14 billion. Living with Parkinson's isn't a death sentence; it is a life sentence.
I hope I live to see the cure - now that would be newsworthy.
Peggy Willocks of Johnson City, TN, is a member of the PDF People with Parkinson's Advisory Council. Learn more about her work in the Parkinson's community by reading her biography on PDF's website here.