THE BLOG

Parkinson's Awareness Month

18/04/2013 17:42 BST | Updated 18/06/2013 10:12 BST

I don't think in his wildest dreams, Dr. James Parkinson, who was born on 11 April 1755, had any idea his birthday would be remembered by millions of people long after his passing. Each year the 11 April is marked around the world as 'Parkinson's Day' and the entire month of April is dedicated to raising funds and awareness. An estimated seven to 10 million people suffer from Parkinson's disease; there are likely many who are not yet diagnosed, as the symptoms vary so much from patient to patient and diagnosis is not a simple clear cut procedure or test as with other diseases. Statistics show that men are one and a half times more likely to get Parkinson's than women. To give you an idea how common this disease is: approximately one million Americans live with Parkinson's disease, which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease. The number of Young on-set Parkinson's patients (those diagnosed under the age of 50) is frighteningly on the increase. This is no longer a disease that was once thought to affect only the elderly.

Parkinson's can affect anyone - it's not fussy, and doesn't discriminate, no matter whether you're old or young. I was diagnosed with Parkinson's at age 44, which at the time, I thought was very young. However since then I have met many other sufferers, some of whom have been diagnosed shockingly at a much younger age. After my first book was published "Parkinson's, shaken not stirred"https://www.amazon.com/author/elainebenton in August 2011, I started to write a daily blog http://elainebenton.blogspot.com/ aimed at offering support to Parkinson's and Gaucher disease sufferers and caregivers. Through contact via the Internet, a network of people became connected and this is when I first found some were in their mid twenties when first diagnosed with Parkinson's. What started as merely a book, then a blog and public speaking snowballed into an entire campaign. I will continue to be an advocate for both diseases and write for as long as I am able.

The tulip is the national symbol for Parkinson's disease and many support groups and organisations world wide have adopted this cheery flower, each country or group putting their own take on it for websites, badges and t-shirts. The story of this particular tulip started in 1980 when a species was created by a Dutch horticulturist, J.W.S. Van der Wereld, who himself suffered from Parkinson's disease. He named this new flower in Dr. Parkinson's honour, and called it 'Tulipa Doctor James Parkinson'.

I have been watching in total awe at the energy, enthusiasm and hope that sufferers along with their family and friends around the world are expressing in a united loud voice, creating global awareness to our plight in finding a cure. This April so many have put on their thinking caps and come up with original ideas and ways of getting the word out there, making people stop and pay attention. Every one of us has a story to tell and a voice, but together we can make a huge noise, raise the roof with an ear shattering crescendo, so that finally no one will be able to ignore us. We'll be heard around the world; everyone will see our strong unbreakable determination, and great hope. We will not be deterred from our goal of educating the general public, and our aims of fund raising for the invaluable research and development where some very exciting innovative ideas are pushing the envelope. Every day brings us closer to finding a cure and an end to suffering this debilitating intolerable disease.

You too can play your part right now, by simply clicking a button and spending a minute or two at your computer. Please Show your support by passing on this article and my personal daily blog to as many people as you can. Help me get the word out today and be part of bringing greater awareness making Parkinson's disease centre stage this April around the world.

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