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Life changer

Life changer

April 1st, 2013 in News
Judi Jecmen displays the quilt blocks she created for the Parkinson's Disease Foundation's Creativity and Parkinson's Quilt Project while speaking at a recent Jefferson City Parkinson's Support Group meeting at the Capital Region Medical Center.

Parkinson's disease changed Judi Jecmen's life.

"I was a dance major in college," said Jecmen, a Jefferson City resident. "I always thought about movement. It's crazy to think I have something that prevents me from moving."

Jecmen graduated from Stephens College in 1971. She worked as an office manager at a dental office and taught dance classes for many years. She was also artistic and business director for Concepts Dance Company for more than 10 years.

She was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1999, and that's when life as she knew it changed.

Parkinson's disease is a movement disorder with symptoms that continue and worsen over time. The disease affects neurons in the brain.

Jecmen eventually had to give up dance, but she replaced it with yoga.

"I was good for a long time," Jecmen said. "Then I developed a series of panic attacks and the anxiety made it harder to do anything.

"I didn't know how bad I was."

Jecmen spoke of the "honeymoon phase" of the disease.

"There's that honeymoon stage where symptoms aren't that bad," she said. "But the honeymoon always ends."

Jecmen has become a clinical trial advocate for the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, which allows her to draw on her own experience with the disease to teach others and raise awareness on the issue.

The Parkinson's Disease Foundation gives grants to researchers to find a cure and find a way to prevent people from getting the disease. As an advocate, Jecmen spends at least five hours a month raising awareness about the disease and encouraging other sufferers to participate in clinical research.

April is significant to her position, because it's Parkinson's Awareness Month.

Jecmen said participating in clinical studies is a way to give back to the Parkinson's community and new therapies cannot be made unless there are volunteers.

"It's exciting when you become involved in something like this," Jecmen said.

"You feel like you're a part of the cure."

Jecmen is working to get more Jefferson Citians involved in finding a cure. She spoke to Capital Region Medical Center's Parkinson's Support Group March 20 about clinical trials, and she's hosting a Parkinson's Disease Awareness Open House in the Art Gallery at Missouri River Regional Library April 2 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.

Informative literature will be available at the event, and local residents with the disease and loved ones of those who have it will be there to answer questions and offer support.

"There are many different things out there that you can be a part of," Jecmen said of Parkinson's awareness. "It's exciting, but it'd be more exciting if there's a cure."

For more information, visit the Parkinson's Disease Foundation's website at or contact Jecmen at