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Don't Let Parkinson's Disease Drive You: One Astronaut's Story

Don't Let Parkinson's Disease Drive You: One Astronaut's Story

For many reasons, many people struggle with how, when, and with whom to share the news of their Parkinson’s diagnosis. Former NASA astronaut and military test pilot Rich Clifford is no exception. But he wasn’t about to let Parkinson’s stop him from flying high.

Clifford was diagnosed in 1994 at age 42, four years after he’d been asked to join NASA’s elite astronaut corps. Two years later, he was climbing aboard the shuttle Atlantis. While NASA’s medical staff and senior management knew he had PD — and were confident in his ability to fly — few others were aware. Clifford shares his journey in an in-depth interview in the latest issue of Neurology Now. Of his decision to keep his PD private, he says, “I didn’t want to be identified as the man with PD flying in space. Plus I felt the focus should be on the mission, not someone on the mission.” He hopes his story will offer hope to other patients, encouraging them to not “let PD drive what you want to do. Remember that you’re in charge of your future.”

Clifford is also an advocate for participating in clinical research and is featured in today’s post on “The Spittoon,” 23andMe’s blog. He had recently sent his DNA for genetic testing to this MJFF research partner. He says, “Research could lead to early diagnosis of PD based on genome analysis, and early diagnosis could give patients the opportunity to change their lifestyle and receive early medications to reduce the decline of dopamine cell production.” He sums it up simply: “Knowledge is power.”

Whether you have PD or not, you can take part in clinical research, too! Complete your profile for Fox Trial Finder to find the clinical trials near you that need you. Learn more about the 23andMe Parkinson’s Disease Research Initiative.

Read the full article in Neurology Now.

Check out “The Spittoon” blog post.

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