Eight years ago next month, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Like most people who are diagnosed with a serious chronic illness for which there is no cure, I was stunned.

Truth be told, I was probably more than a little depressed.

I wanted to see my grandchildren grow up. I wanted to cheer at their soccer, volleyball and baseball games. See them dressed for proms. See them graduate from high school and college. Maybe see my great grandchildren. I was sure none of that would happen, but then a funny thing happened. I woke up from that bad dream and decided to do something positive. I wanted to join a support group, but found none existed in Galveston County. My path became clear: I should start a Parkinson’s support group!

As part of a gait-and-balance study at the University of Texas Medical Branch, I connected with other participants who were also interested in a support group.

We worked tirelessly for a year to build Gulf Parkinson’s Source from the ground up. Later this year, we will celebrate our fifth successful year!

We could not be prouder of our group. A group of lay people who had a need and came together to make it happen. We share a terrible disease, but we also share information, knowledge and support.

We have grown during the last five years. We now have a free exercise group every Monday morning, developed a library of loaner material, including several Wii’s that members can borrow for exercise. We have been very fortunate to offer an array of some of the best movement disorder specialists from the major hospitals in Houston. In November of each year we celebrate National Caregivers Month by honoring our caregivers with dinner and special speakers. Lastly, we are able to provide knowledgeable speakers to any group who requests information about Parkinson’s disease.

Gulf Parkinson’s Source was created to help. We help patients, their families and caregivers learn to cope with the physical and mental challenges they face. We invite anyone who has Parkinson’s disease or a caregiver to join us the first Thursday of each month at the First United Methodist Church in Dickinson.

We never know what we will face around each corner in life. But we know we don’t have to face it alone. My husband, Sam, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s last year. We are both caregivers and patients, but because of GPS, we are not alone. For more information, call 409-938-8423.

Jane Johnson is President of Gulf Parkinson’s Source and lives in Texas City.

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