Welcome to our new site! This has been long journey for me. I am so grateful to my friends and family for all their love and support over the years. And its because of them that I am fortunate enough to be able to form this non-profit organization that will donate to Parkinson’s research and programs that will enhance the lives of those living with PD.
Its August 2011.
My husband and I are in Orlando attending our first Zumba® Instructor convention.
We were going to spend the next three days experiencing all kinds of dance-everything from Bollywood to hip-hop and salsa.
It is a bright morning in Orlando,
I wake up early that day.
I get dressed in my brightly colored Zumba® clothing.
I am excited to start my day as I step into the elevator.
But just as I am about to join the others , something happens to my body.
My right foot and ankle stiffens.
The muscles start to tighten, my toes start to curl, and I am stuck.
Immobilized. Paralyzed on the spot.
This was not the first time this had happened. I knew the drill. I needed to find a chair to sit on and just wait for my medication to kick in.
There I was – wishing to join the others but I simply couldn’t.
My body had shut me out. And there was nothing I could really do about it except surrender. And wait for tiny small pills to work their magic.
This has become the story of my life.
I have come to see that stories are powerful. This is why our faith uses the power of story to convey complex morals. It is through stories that we can join together, share our common humanity and seek the path to transformation.
Although my story may appear different on the surface, I hope you can find that soft spot where the details fade away and where it no longer matters how you and I are different, but instead, how we – each one of us reading this – share the same story. We all face the same challenges – of life’s unpredictability, the weight that the freedom to choose brings, and the power of love.
I was trained as a doctor. A podiatrist. I used to love performing surgeries and teaching the residents. Intricate foot surgeries. I felt was really good at what I did. I was on top of the world. In my prime. I was unstoppable. Life was fast-paced and rushed. From years in med school, to marriage, to mommy-hood, to a full-time practice, every moment was accounted for. I had no time to stop for anything, not even life.
Little did I realize that one day…life would stop me.
At first, I ignored the tremors. First the pinky finger. Then the thumb. Then the entire right hand. I kept ignoring the these symptoms. I JUST didn’t have the time. Until my father-in-law noticed what I chose to ignore and yelled at me, of course in a loving way, to go to a doctor.
It didn’t take them too long.
I was diagnosed fairly quickly.
The doctor handed it to me matter-of-factly.
Young Onset Parkinsons. “It can affect one side of your body more than the other” he told me.
What? What did this mean?
Well, I found out soon enough.
It meant that my right-side was no longer under my control. It meant that
one side of my body would from here on forward refuse to follow my
command anymore. It would follow the will of its own.
This was unreal.
One side was following my lead, and the other was obstinate… relentless… merciless.
This was the year I knew I had to stop working. I had to stop. I had no choice.
Darker moments followed.
Waves of despair cracked the foundation of who I thought I was and could become.
The self, the Beth, as I knew her was now unrecognizable to me.
Who was I now?
My identity was shattered.
I had reached rock bottom.
They say our children are our healers, our miracle. Although I knew that on an intuitive level, I had never truly experienced THEIR power to move us ..until then.
I looked at my children one day as they played, with reckless abandon, joyful, fully in the moment, embodying life as only children can and realized that I had a choice to make.
I could either choose life, OR choose fear.
I could either succumb to my pain and live my life as a victim, OR I could turn this around and become a survivor.
I had freedom to choose. The weight of this freedom bore heavy.
I CHOSE LIFE.
I followed my children’s lead. THEY taught me in how THEY recovered after missteps, to embrace my new imperfections.
They taught me in how THEY loved me unconditionally, to love myself despite my new failings.
They taught me in how THEY entered each moment as if it was brand new – to let go
my past and recreate a new present of my own design and choosing.
THEY led the way and I humbly followed.
Slowly, step by step I pieced together a new life.
When my doctor informed me that exercise would be beneficial, I returned to a passion from my childhood: dancing.
Dance classes, zumba: I went for it. I poured INTO DANCE all my fears and allowed it to transform into hope.
As dance poured rhythm back into my life, I slowly began to embrace my diagnosis.
I began to see that perhaps beneath its pain lied another reality: one of courage.
I began to see that I was given this diagnosis for a reason. I knew that I needed to transform my pain into power.
So created a new mission for myself.
I joined Team Fox, the fundraising wing of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Here, I became part of a support group for others with young-onset Parkinson’s and I began creating fundraising events.
I have had huge successes with our fundraising. I have had the benefit of combining my love for dance with my passion for creating awareness for Parkinson’s research. In fact, in 2011, Zumba® agreed to host an 800 person Zumbathon® for PD research at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC. I felt like I was a rock star for an hour. The event was a huge success, with Michael J. Fox sending a video message to thank me for the hard work.To date, I have helped create events that have raised over $80,000 for Parkinson’s research.
If you had asked me where my life would take me ten years ago, I would never have thought that I would be walking this path.
Yet, I know today that this path was given to me for a reason. And that, it is our ability to find and live this reason that matters more than anything else.
I have now come to see, more than ever, that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. It is a choice that I do not wish to make anymore.
Even though I have this disease, I choose to see it as my ultimate blessing, not a curse. For it has taken me to heights of humility, empathy and courage that I would not have ordinarily reached.
It has taught me that life is ultimately only lived in the present moment. That once life is lived with awareness and presence, every moment becomes a teacher, a catalyst for greater compassion, service and change.
So as I end my story here today, I wish to highlight to you that each of YOUR struggles as well are actually your greatest teachers.
YOU hold the choice to allow them to defeat you or transform you.
I know you will make the choice of transformation, THE CHOICE OF LIFE – as I did.
Thank you for allowing me to share some of my story with you.