Parkinson’s Awareness Month – Learning to live with debilitating disease

Just as her daughter was off to post-secondary school, a Warfield mom’s plans for more time on the golf course landed in the sand trap when she found out she had Parkinson’s disease.

“I was getting tired and kind of shaking every now and then and I thought, ‘Oh, I’m just depressed’ because my daughter had left for school,” recalls Lil Harper. “But then (the doctor) came right out and said, ‘You have Parkinson’s’ and it was kind of a shock and I went home in a daze and cried for days.”

Harper was 53 years old when she was diagnosed just over 10 years ago with the common degenerative neurological disorder that is a result from loss of dopamine in the brain.

During Parkinson’s Awareness Month, Harper hopes more people are made aware of the disease that about 11,000 people in the province are noted to be suffering with, according to the Parkinson Society of British Columbia.

For most people diagnosed, their minds stay sharp while their movements are limited due to tremors, slowness and stiffness, impaired balance and rigid muscles. As the disease progresses, individuals have difficulty walking, talking and swallowing.

“You have your good days and your bad days, I still do. Some days I can’t even get out of bed and my husband has to help me out,” she said. “I can’t walk very far because my muscles in my lungs don’t function very well and some days it’s hard to climb the stairs.”

Early on, Harper struggled with staying positive but nowadays she has learned to live with Parkinson’s and feels blessed to live in the area she grew up in, surrounded by family and friends.

“It hit and I think for about a year I kind of shut down and didn’t want to see anybody or do anything,” she said.

“You have to first accept what you have and that you can’t change it. Some days you think, ‘why me?’”

Life got easier when she connected with the Trail and Castlegar Parkinson’s support group, which meets once a month to share information, have lunch, listen to guest speakers and do exercises.

With about a dozen members on board, Harper can’t help but think there are residents out there that are ignoring their disease.

“What we find in our community is that people don’t want to admit they have it,” she said.

But Renice Townsend, who runs the local group, said the complex symptoms people with Parkinson’s face can often deter them from social outings.

“It’s a disease that has a lot of hidden characteristics,” said Townsend, who was falsely diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis before officially finding out she had Parkinson’s in 2004. “We feel a little apprehensive in groups but it’s still important to socialize. You got to remind yourself that OK, yes I find it difficult to mix with people but it’s still important to practice my social skills.”

Townsend recently joined Toastmasters, an organization that works toward developing public speaking and leadership skills, to work on building her confidence up.

To acknowledge the common symptom of the disease, the local group will be viewing a DVD on speech when they meet today at the Colander at 11:30 a.m.

While April is a time to remind residents with Parkinson’s that they’re not alone, September is also a big month with the group’s annual “SuperWalk” fundraiser, which will be held at Gyro Park on Sept. 17.

Money raised locally goes to the Parkinson Society of British Columbia, which puts the funds toward research and distributing information.

Members of the local group pay an annual fee of about $25, which often goes toward sending a member to provincial conferences.

For more information about the Trail and Castlegar Parkinson’s support group, contact Renice Townsend at 367-7437 or email

Members meet the third Tuesday of every month at the Colander Restaurant in Trail at 11:30 a.m.

Just Posted

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

South Slocan’s Ti Loran is among the recipients of this year’s Neil Muth Memorial Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
Neil Muth Memorial Scholarships awarded to 4 students

Students in Creston, South Slocan and Revelstoke are sharing the honour

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

A wildfire near Cottonwood Lake was put out by Nelson firefighters Sunday night. Photo: Submitted
Wildfire extinguished near Cottonwood Lake

Lightning-caused fire was near one of Nelson’s water sources

West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Central Mountain Air leaving Castlegar airport in July

The airline says market can’t handle two airlines

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Most Read