Why we walk: 'My dad was my rock, and today I must fill that role for him'
Growing up, I saw my dad as courageous, strong, smart, reliable, and resourceful. He could fix any problem, large or small. Whether it was opening the impossible-to-open jar, resolving disputes with the credit card company, or arranging emergency travel plans, we could depend on him to handle any challenge. He was our family's superhero.
Then, in late 2015, we noticed changes that began to affect those superhero powers. His body was stiff and painful, and his hands were slightly shaky. In hindsight, these were early signs of Parkinson's disease (PD), but at the time, his doctor speculated the symptoms were due to arthritis. My dad was confused and concerned in the face of a problem he could not solve.
After numerous tests over many months, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. According to the Parkinson's Foundation, PD is a neurodegenerative brain disorder associated with a progressive loss of motor control (e.g., shaking or tremor at rest and lack of facial expression), as well as non-motor symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). There is currently no cure, but there are many treatment options to manage symptoms.
Today, my dad has trouble sleeping, difficulty walking, pain and rigidity, and tremor occurs in both hands. On bad days, he remains in bed, and on many other days he hesitates to make plans for fear of being unwell and unable to fulfill his commitments.
Fortunately, as one of nine children, my dad has a large support system of people who love and care for him, and my mom is a doting care partner.
Throughout my life, my dad was my rock, and today I must fill that role for him. Although our home in Wood Dale is hundreds of miles away from my parents in Northwest Michigan, my husband and I make frequent visits where I help care for my dad.
In between visits, I send entertaining videos of our 3-year-old daughter and stay connected through FaceTime calls that boost his mood. Additionally, in my role of problem solver, I stay informed of the latest PD treatments and research to help my parents navigate the disease.
While it is incredibly difficult to watch my superhero lose his strength, it is obvious, within the constraints of the disease he makes every effort to be there for his family. As a way to honor him, we will be participating in the virtual Moving Day Chicago event as Team Chris Bickes.
Traditionally, Moving Day features a family-friendly walk course along the Chicago lakefront, a kids' area, the We Move Pavilion and more.
Due to the pandemic, the Parkinson's Foundation has shifted the event to be virtual. On Oct. 24, our team members in the Chicago area, as well as those in Northwest Michigan, will join together for the Facebook Live hosted by Patrick Fazio of NBC5 Chicago and featuring special guests.
Moving Day is a celebration of movement and, as such, during the virtual event, instructors will lead exercises proven to help manage Parkinson's symptoms.
While my dad fights Parkinson's, I am willing to run, walk, jump, crawl and raise money to help support better care, medical research, and educational and empowerment programs.
Funds raised through the past five Moving Day Chicago events have enabled the Parkinson's Foundation to train 1,500 health care professionals in Illinois, provide grants to 16 researchers across the state, host educational programs for nearly 2,400 individuals, and much more.
For more information, visit MovingDayChicago.org.