In 2006, my world, like so many others I have come to know, crashed. I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 44. This was an illness that did not run in my family; I did not know all it entailed. Enter denial. If no one knew, no one would pity me. It would be several years before I disclosed my illness outside of my immediate family, a decision I later regretted. Of course, symptoms progressed. Parkinson’s is relentless. I had no choice but to reveal my devastating news.
In 2008, I attended a Michael J. Fox Foundation Research Roundtable in NYC. Walking into the large conference room felt overwhelming, and I immediately did an about face. A staff member from the foundation, “an angel in disguise” as I call her, spotted me. After a short discussion, she sat me at a table with other young people with Parkinson’s and my world once again changed forever. Little did I know that this time it would be for the better. Yes, there were difficult hills to climb; but there would also be surprises.
Today, I am immensely proud to be a Team Fox Mentor. What started out as an idea for a small party to raise some money for research has developed into several years of hosting “Leave Parkinson’s Behind” galas and events. Always shy and soft-spoken, I now stand on a stage before hundreds of people raising awareness and hope for a cure. What an incredible experience to be on the "Partner's in Parkinson's" panel twice. I have participated in research studies and been interviewed by "The NY Times"and "Neurology Now" about disclosing a PD diagnosis and overcoming the stigma of a neurological illness. Life has been enriched by connecting to others living with Parkinson's. They have inspired me to challenge myself physically through exercise and even run a 5k or two. To date, I have raised over $125,000 towards Parkinson’s research.
2016 was a tough year as my symptoms progressed more rapidly. No matter how many abilities this ugly disease steals from me, it will never steal my determination to fight for a cure. Reflecting back on my life and PD work for this bio, a friend said to me, “Details are boring; but your passion is contagious.” That hit home. Trying to do my part for the Parkinson’s community has been wonderful medicine. The galas are always such a fun night filled with hope!
I am so deeply grateful to my family and friends for their outpouring of love and support verses pity. Our children and grandchildren will not live a life with Parkinson’s!
WHAT IS PARKINSON'S?
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects one in 100 people over age 60. While the average age at onset is 60, people have been diagnosed as young as 18. There is no objective test, or biomarker for Parkinson’s, so the rate of misdiagnosis can be relatively high, especially when a non-specialist makes the diagnosis. Estimates of the number of people living with the disease therefore vary, but recent research indicates that at least one million people in the United States, and more than five million worldwide, have Parkinson’s.
THANK YOU BRIELLE BAROZZINI FOR YOUR KINDNESS AND DEDICATION TO RAISE PD AWARENESS.
WHAT IS TEAM FOX?
Team Fox is the grassroots community fundraising program at The Michael J. Fox Foundation. Each year more than 4,000 Team Fox members worldwide turn their passions and interests into unique fundraising events and athletic feats. To date, Team Fox has raised over $45 million for Parkinson’s research. The Michael J. Fox Foundation knows how hard their inspiring Team Fox members work to raise donations. That’s why prominent donors cover the costs incurred by the Foundation to run the Team Fox program — so that every penny donated by Team Fox members can go straight to their high-impact research programs to help speed a cure for Parkinson’s disease. To learn more about Team Fox and The Michael J. Fox Foundation go to www.michaeljfox.org.