Parkinson's support group raises awareness of disease

'A fellowship of people'

John Sander wants the public to be more tolerant and understanding of Parkinson’s disease.

The 60-year-old has battled with Parkinson’s since 1996 when he was diagnosed with a slight tremor in one finger.

“I’d like people to be aware that a person with Parkinson’s can look like they have Parkinson’s one minute and then an hour later look like they don’t have it,” he said.

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Parkinson’s is a chronic and progressive movement disorder that involves the malfunction and death of neurons (nerve cells) in the brain. Common symptoms include tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face; slowness of movement; rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; and impaired balance and coordination.

Sander said if he doesn’t take his medications, he has significant shaking.

His biggest challenge is walking.

“When my medications wear off, the biggest challenge is to keep walking,” he said. “At this point, I’m still fairly independent.”

Capital Region Medical Center’s (CRMC) Parkinson’s Support Group — which meets at 3 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month at CRMC’s southwest campus — has become a big part of Sander’s life.

“It’s good to see and talk to people who have the same difficulties as me,” he said. “It’s a fellowship of people, and I can see I’m not so unusual after all.”

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month.

Judi Jecmen, another member of the support group, is hosting a Parkinson’s open house from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday in

Missouri River Regional Library’s Art Gallery.

Jecmen said individuals who regularly attend the support group will be on hand to talk with others who may have been recently diagnosed, who may have questions, or who would like to learn more about clinical trials or treatments.

“I wanted to create a venue for people newly diagnosed and those living with the disease for some time,” Jecmen said. “The more you know about what’s going on, the more you can coordinate with your doctor and be proactive with your medication.”

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