What It’s Like To Be Young, Female, And Living With Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is often thought of as an “old man’s illness,” but it affects young women, too. Here, two women share what’s it’s like to live with Parkinson’s, and why it won’t get the best of them.

Rebecca Miller knew something was wrong when she went to reach for her baby daughter and her hand wouldn’t move unless she actually told it to. “I immediately thought, ‘Is this psychological? Am I having conflicts about caring for my daughter?’” the clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine, department of psychiatry, tells SELF.

Miller, then 39, eventually went to her primary care physician, who sent her to a variety of specialists for testing. During the process, it came out that she had been dragging one of her feet for 10 years and had started texting with her left hand, even though she was right-handed—symptoms she didn’t think were a big deal. “I was very blasé about the whole thing,” she says. “I didn’t think much about it and wasn’t concerned.”

It wasn’t until just before Miller met with a movement disorder specialist that things changed. “I Googled my symptoms and all it came up with was Parkinson’s disease,” she says. “Then I got upset and was really nervous.” The specialist reached the same conclusion—it was likely Parkinson’s, a chronic and progressive movement disorder. The symptoms vary from person to person but often include tremors in the hands, arms, legs, and face, stiffness in a person’s arms and trunk, and impaired balance and coordination—and they become worse with time.

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