Guest blogger Tonya Walker, Team Fox member and founder and blogger of The Shoe Maven, (a daily fashion and shoe site) shares her journey with Young-onset Parkinson's disease and the role her blog has played in the ability to share her story and connect with others living with Parkinson’s:
At the age of 32, I first noticed my left arm no longer swung as I walked. Little did I know I was experiencing one of my first symptoms of Parkinson's. I initially assumed that the weakness in my arm was attributable to some sort of injury. Two years later, after a battery of tests to rule out other conditions, I was officially diagnosed with Parkinson's. In the early years, I told myself that my life with PD was really no different than my life pre-PD. After all, no one in my family had PD and I still appeared to be "normal." I shared the diagnosis with only a handful of family members and friends. I was truly living in denial.
As the disease progressed, it became more difficult to hide. However, it was not until I decided to undergo Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery that I shared the diagnosis with my other friends and co-workers. At that point I didn’t have much choice, since it would be a challenge to keep brain surgery a secret. In August 2013, I was blessed with a successful DBS procedure. In the weeks that followed, I felt amazing. Almost like I felt prior to PD. I had energy. I was able to sit still. I regained much of my balance. I didn't need to set my alarm clock an hour early to take medicine just so I could get out of bed. More importantly, not only had I stopped living in denial, but I now had a strong desire to make a difference, raise awareness and help find a cure. I just needed a platform.
Regaining my balance was particularly important for me. As a shoe lover since a very young age, this meant I could wear my favorite high heels again. Soon after my recovery, The Shoe Maven was born as a way of celebrating the end of my hiatus from heels. The Shoe Maven is a blog with a focus on fashion and shoes, but its greater purpose is to merge my love for fashion with my goal to promote Parkinson's awareness. I am able to connect with people living with Parkinson’s and support the important work of MJFF.
There are many people, young and old, who live with PD, most of whom probably struggle with denial like I once did. I want to connect with those people or encourage them to have a better outlook on life with PD. I simply refuse to let PD take away the best years of my life, so I have chosen to do something about it.
Using The Shoe Maven as a platform, I've focused my fundraising efforts on fashion-related events. In April 2015, my husband and I held a Team Fox fundraiser entitled "The Art of Fashion." The event included outfits styled by local boutiques, bloggers and stylists against the backdrop of Central Florida’s largest private art collection. The Art of Fashion exceeded our expectations and raised nearly $5,000 for MJFF. We were humbled by the support we received from local businesses, and we made incredible connections with individuals living with PD or caregivers.
Continuing with the idea of fashionable fundraising, my husband and I recently launched a line of designer graphic tees under the label TSM Originals. For each shirt sold, we donate $5 to MJFF and critical research efforts. I am now re-energized to move onto bigger and better fundraising and outreach projects. I face challenges on a daily basis, but I am living a joyful life with Parkinson's.
Interested in transforming your personal passion into an opportunity to speed a cure like Tonya? Join Team Fox today.