I know my story isn't typical – having two distinct movement disorders. And fortunately for me, my doctor isn't typical either. He is not only an amazing physician who has taken the time to research my complicated medical issues, he is an exceptional person who has supported me through every stage of my illness and the impact it has on my life.
I was 50 when I first started talking to my doctor about some strange symptoms I was having and at 52, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My MS was largely contained, thanks to treatment including chemotherapy, but two years into treatment, I was still exhibiting symptoms referred to as Parkinsonisms. My neurologist wanted me to see someone whose work was focused on this condition. He referred me to Dr. Joseph Friedman – a referral that would prove to be more meaningful than just a new diagnosis and treatment.
Meeting Dr. Friedman turned my life around. I was having major issues with rigidity in my right hand; being right handed, it affected my job performance, my life at home, being an active part of my son's life. And of course I was suffering emotionally because of the symptoms. Dr. Friedman took the time to diagnose that I did indeed also have Parkinson's disease and to quickly get me involved with a drug regimen, which had instant results. Thanks to Dr. Friedman and what I think of as our five-year partnership, I am back to work, productive and focused. I have the energy to be with my husband and son and spend quality time with friends.
But what helped me more than the medication was that Dr. Friedman treated me not just as a patient, but as an actual person. He helped me to understand that I was not "a disease" and that I could take control of my symptoms and treatment by being an active participant in my health care. He is always pushing me to be active, to not let Parkinson's hold me back in any way and also not to hide my disease. It is part of me, but it is not me. And he also listens, which with a disease like Parkinson's is so important, because along with all of the physical symptoms comes fear, depression, anxiety, insecurity. He even helped me to talk about my disease with my family, especially my son. I can't truly express how thankful I am for having a doctor like Dr. Friedman.
I would certainly never wish Parkinson's or MS on anyone, but I do consider myself lucky to have Dr. Friedman in my life. Hospitals like Butler need our support so that someone who does get this diagnosis – you, a friend, a colleague, someone you have never met – can get the treatment, support, and care they need and deserve. It is amazing to know that supporting The Aronson Chair for Neurodegenerative Disorders would guarantee that doctors like Dr. Friedman and Butler Hospital will always be able to give everyone the best chance for a happy and productive life. Everyone should be able to live life to the fullest – Butler and Dr. Friedman gave that back to me.