“We will only get new drugs if people volunteer,” says Betsy Barber, of Tampa, Florida. That’s among the many reasons she as participated in eight clinical trials since her Parkinson’s diagnosis 12 years ago.
In fact, she connected with her first trial before she even knew she had Parkinson’s disease. She saw an ad in her local paper for a trial at the University of South Florida, looking for individuals with symptoms like hers. During the initial screening with Dr. Robert Hauser, he diagnosed her with PD, which confirmed her growing suspicion. When he explained the research currently taking place, Betsy, a trauma nurse, was eager to take action. And she was soon enrolled in the trial.
Although she works in the medical field, Betsy says she initially didn’t know much about PD. Thanks to her participation in research, she’s gained significant knowledge about the disease. Betsy also appreciates early access to potential therapies. As part of her first trial, she began taking Requip® XL, which she still uses today. Looking toward the future, she’s optimistic about new treatments; if not during her lifetime, she hopes her children and grandchildren might benefit.
Living with PD for over a decade, Betsy continues to work full-time and has adjusted her schedule to best suit her “on periods. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a supportive boss and wonderful colleagues,” she says.
Over the years, Betsy has become an advocate for Parkinson’s — within the patient and medical communities. Traveling to hospitals and assisted living homes in her area, she educates the medical staff about PD. She also presents to local support groups, sharing the state of health care and steps patients can take — especially participating in research.
Last year, Betsy was among the first to create a profile on Fox Trial Finder (foxtrialfinder.org), The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s clinical trial matching tool. She says, “There’s a lot of information on the Internet about different clinical trials. It’s hard to know which trial might be right for you. What’s great about Fox Trial Finder is that it does the work for you.” Currently enrolled in a trial, she looks forward to using Fox Trial Finder to connect with the next one.
“While the Parkinson’s experience is different for everyone, it’s still possible to lead a normal life,” Betsy says. “Don’t let the disease define you.”