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Guest Blogger Peggy Willocks says, “Parkinson’s has only Made Me Stronger!”

Guest Blogger Peggy Willocks says, “Parkinson’s has only Made Me Stronger!”

Peggy, left, with her eldest daughter at the 2000 Parkinson's Unity Walk in Central Park.

Guest blogger Peggy Willocks is a person with Parkinson’s disease and a clinical trial participant from Johnson City, Tennessee. Here, Peggy shares her experience with Parkinson's disease and how participating in a clinical trial empowered her to live well with PD.

I always presumed I would grow old gracefully and die of natural causes while still teaching.  But like the majority of the U.S. workforce, I did not take my health into consideration. Good health is something most of us just take for granted.  

I married my high school sweetheart at the ludicrous age of 17, and starting at age 19 had three babies before deciding to go back to school. Right after the wedding, I completed a medical secretary certificate course and had a good job at the local Veteran's Administration.

It was August of 1994, I had been in a supervisory position as elementary school principal for nearly four years. I knew that it wasn't "normal" for my left arm to not swing when I walked. Although aging is conducive to fatigue and sometimes even excessive rigidity, I was only 44 years old and couldn’t write off my symptoms as part of getting older. But my symptoms remained bothersome enough that I sought the opinion of a neurologist.  

After my visit I called a school faculty meeting to share the neurologist's findings. Living in a small town of around 15,000, there was no way to be clandestine about the findings. As 26 pairs of questioning eyes were staring at me, I finally managed to speak the two words my neurologist had spoken only days before. . ."Parkinson's disease." You could have heard a feather drop. With the mix of the expressions on the faces of 26 teachers and my heart thumping so loudly, my next reaction surprised even me, I burst into tears.  

Pulling myself back together, I explained how I was determined to beat the disease, and I nearly killed myself trying to do so. Three years later I was greeted at the front door by the superintendent of our school district and a local TV crew. They had come to congratulate Tennessee’s 1997 Principal of the Year.

At that point I had overcome the baffling disease that has no known cause or diagnostic test. Yet, Parkinson's has the upper hand, at least for the moment. Although I had to take disability retirement in 1998, and even participated in an experimental trial in 2000 that required brain surgery; I think celebrating my 20th anniversary of living with Parkinson's is proof that one can still have a good quality of life after diagnosis

All it takes to speed up the drug and treatment process or maybe even find a cure, are clinical trial volunteers, the allocation of appropriate research funding and to allow patient collaboration with research scientists.

Like the old Uncle Sam posters advocated, take a good look in the mirror, then point your finger and say,  “a cure won't be found unless you step up to the plate and take a swing."  You never know – you might just hit Parkinson’s right out of the park. 

To learn more about participating in a clinical trial, visit

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