“Parkinson’s first entered our lives when my husband’s father, John was diagnosed many years ago,” says Connie Jacobs, 65, of Northville, Michigan. “Jeff was his caregiver and saw him through his journey with the disease.” During that time, Jeff, 65, began his own journey, learning more about the Parkinson’s community while helping his dad navigate doctor’s appointments and treatment options. “My dad hoped there was something out there that was going to stop the disease and take care of him.”
A few years after John passed, Connie began experiencing balance issues. First, she attributed it to aging, but other small clues started piecing together a different picture. She had long lived with restless legs syndrome, and she began dragging her right foot and scraping her heel when she walked. Then, Jeff and Connie noticed the tremors. Several visits to a neurologist and a DaTscan — an imaging test — confirmed a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
“When we got the news, we decided we could just take each day as it comes or we could take action and plan ahead,” comments Connie.
Learning from John’s experience, Connie and Jeff began adapting to life with Parkinson’s. Connie immediately formed her care team and began managing her symptoms with medications. Knowing the importance of community, she joined Rock Steady Boxing to exercise and connect with others living with the disease.
With another loved one diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Jeff began looking for ways to contribute to research. “Obviously, from my perspective, being surrounded by my dad, other family members who are living with disease, and my wife, Parkinson's research became an important answer,” shares Jeff. “We have known about the Fox Foundation for a long time now. It’s the center of expertise for Parkinson’s research and it’s got momentum.”
Jeff completed an online survey for MJFF’s landmark study, the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), after seeing an ad for men with family connections to Parkinson’s. He and Connie also attended the Foundation’s webinars and events to hear more about living with Parkinson’s and research progress. “Nothing happens the way you hope it will, unless you get involved,” says Jeff.
Still, the couple wanted to do more. When it came to their personal philanthropy, they had two key questions — “are we really investing in things that are important to us?” and “are we really making a difference?”
Together, they decided to include a bequest to The Michael J. Fox Foundation in their trust. Jeff continues, “The reality is we're never going to win the award for the biggest donor of the year. But we are at the point in our lives where there's going to be a lot more at the end than there is right now. So that's why planned giving is a part of this.”
“Hope was my mother’s middle name and is a huge word for me,” continues Connie. “We have two sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. I hope that the rest of my family is going to be okay when I’m not here someday. And I hope through our actions, our legacy can be finding a cure for others.”