Editor’s Note: Just after the new year, I had the privilege of meeting the mother-son duo of Christie and Stephan Brooks at the Miami Marathon & Half. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s just six months ago at the age of 50, Christie is already taking an active stand against PD. She signed up for her first Half Marathon as a member of Team Fox, running with her son Stefan. Here, they share a bit of their story.
Christie: It has been almost 6 months since my diagnosis with Parkinson’s. My story is probably similar to many others…chronic shoulder pain, an occasional twitch in my left arm, a visit to the doctor, a referral to a neurologist. Then, a diagnosis that you can’t get your mind wrapped around. I actually asked my primary care doctor, “What is going on with my body? Do you think this is Parkinson’s disease?” He didn’t answer but referred me to a neurologist as soon as possible. My reaction was probably similar to others as well, “How can this be happening to me?” I am a healthy and very active 50-year old woman that works non-stop!
Stefan: As most kids do, I grew up thinking my parents were invincible. We were healthy, stayed active and ate well, so when I heard about my mom’s diagnosis I was shocked. 50 was a pretty young age to start seeing symptoms.
Christie: I finally got my head wrapped around the diagnosis, and came to the resolution that on this side of heaven bad things happen and I couldn’t change that. But what I could do is to learn to live my life with Parkinson’s disease. Initially I felt like the disease was robbing me of a future that I had dreamed of, robbing me of a career that I had worked incredibly hard for, and robbing me of a resilience that I was known for.
A friend emailed me and said, “I don’t think Parkinson’s knows who it is dealing with!” Finally, I decided I was not going to let this disease rob me of anything, at least not without a fight. I have an incredible husband and family that support me, plus what I call my “prayer army.” Their faith and support bring me strength when I need it most. I have also always enjoyed working out and staying active. So the belief that exercise is a way I can potentially lessen the progress of this disease fuels me.
Stefan: My mother is a strong woman. We talked on the phone shortly after the diagnosis and she was adamant that Parkinson’s would not define her or us as a family. Like many others, my first thought was “What can I do?” I know that I cannot take away my mom’s restless nights or her other symptoms, but I can do something. I can run. I can help raise awareness and fundraise for Parkinson’s.
Christie: My daughter sent me information on Team Fox and their participation in the Miami Marathon. She said “You should do this Mom!” and soon after my son and I were both registered. He wasn’t a runner but said he’d do it for me. I wasn’t a long distance runner either!
Stefan: During my training, there were days I didn’t want to run, but I thought about my mom and others with Parkinson’s and was able to push through. So many people have stepped up to support my mom and me – both financially and emotionally. Their support is tremendous – and together we’ve raised over $2,500 for Team Fox as Team Brooks.
Christie: What the Michael J Fox Foundation is doing for us is amazing. The hope they bring to us for the promise of a better tomorrow is not taken for granted. Although it is a community I never dreamed I’d be a part of, the fact is I am. So I’m doing what I can, running with purpose as a proud Team Fox member. Crossing the finish line, I felt like I had given my Parkinson’s disease one big punch! Take that PD! Already thinking about Miami 2015!!