Similar to many Parkinson’s patients, the road to diagnosis for Denise Dvorak was a long one. But once she finally found out that the symptoms she was experiencing were Parkinson's disease, this 44-year-old life-long educator quickly set out to find out more about her condition.
Her search for knowledge led her to The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s website, where she immediately noticed different ways that she could take action. As a newly diagnosed patient, the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) caught her eye. Sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, PPMI is a landmark study to identify biomarkers, necessary tools to evaluate Parkinson’s disease progression — and to develop disease-modifying therapies.
Denise was eager to not only educate herself about PD, but also to do whatever she could to help speed a cure. She connected with the PPMI team at Boston University, which isn’t far from her home in Rhode Island, and scheduled her initial screening. Upon that appointment, she learned she qualified for the study. One month later, she returned for her baseline visit, which she says was “an incredible and positive experience. Going into a five-year study, it was important for me to get a good feeling about the PPMI staff who would be working with me. It became clear very quickly how much they cared about me and my well-being. Any concerns I may have had about participating were alleviated.”
Along with volunteering for PPMI, Denise is committed to staying active — through dance classes, water aerobics and yoga, which have the added benefit of expanding her network. Her family has been very supportive of her, and they’re all participating in and raising funds for the Parkinson’s Unity Walk on April 28. “No one in my family has PD, so this has all been new to me,” says Denise. “But I have enjoyed meeting other patients. And I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to do my part.”