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Tom Palizzi

Being able to work for others has been the best thing about Parkinson’s.

When I was 48 years old, I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease. It was the last thing I was expecting to hear. I went to a physical and the doctor said everything looked great. But as my appointment was ending, I mentioned to her that typing had become difficult. My left pinky would stick and I’d constantly end up with a row of As. What followed was a whirlwind. She had me perform a couple of finger movements before telling me that I needed to see a neurologist. I was able to get an appointment that same day during which I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The first thing that crossed my mind was ‘How long do I have to live?’ I really had no idea what Parkinson’s disease was.

I quickly learned that while Parkinson’s wasn’t going to kill me it was degenerative, meaning it would get worse every day. I realize that my body had been changing long before my diagnosis. In fact, I had been showing the symptoms of Parkinson’s since I was a young man. Some 15 to 20 years earlier, I lost my sense of smell.  I also had a tendency to hang my left arm, another sign of the disease. Experts believe that by the time these symptoms show themselves, I had already lost 75% of my dopamine in my brain.

Before my diagnosis, I was busy with work, family, and enjoying my life. After my diagnosis, I began to focus on the people that had Parkinson's. I wanted to be an advocate for those going through the same thing as me. I immediately got involved with organizations near my home and across the country. Today, I see my ambassadorship within the Parkinson's community as a bit of a twilight career where my job is to educate and inspire people. Being able to work for others has been the best thing about having this disease.