Steve Stryker was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease on April 26, 2016. As early as 2012, Steve noticed symptoms like slurring words and differences in his tone of voice, but his test results were all inconclusive. In the fall of 2016, he was interviewing someone at his workplace and noticed that he started having a hard time writing, that his lips were tightening when he tried to speak.
Finally, in 2016, Steve received his diagnosis. He recounts being so relieved it wasn’t ALS that he laughed and hugged his doctor.
“I felt relieved to know why I was having trouble speaking, why my movements were becoming slow and methodical, why I was having trouble writing, why I was shivering despite not being cold, why walking and running had become such a thoughtful process, why I was no longer upbeat and outgoing, and why the world seemed to have sped up and I was struggling to keep pace,” Steve shares.
But then the reality of living with Parkinson’s set in.
“I wasn’t prepared for the mood changes, the reduction in dopamine,” Steve says. “It was so hard to be in a good mood, and so easy to be depressed. I’m a very positive person and used to be extremely outgoing and now I’m much less.”
Steve says this fundamental change in how he showed up in the world had detrimental impacts for his marriage, and ultimately led to his divorce shortly after his diagnosis.
“So then I was facing the reality of living with a Parkinson’s diagnosis and dating in my fifties,” Steve says. “And let me tell you, nothing was more terrifying.”
Steve recounts how difficult dating with a diagnosis was, sharing that he always told people after the first date.
“I lost a lot of second dates that way.”
Like many people living with Parkinson’s who are single, Steve felt it would be impossible to find someone who would be willing to take on the challenges of the disease.
“And then I met Susi,” he says with a smile.
Steve and Susi met in March 2020 and Steve told Susi about his diagnosis right away.
“It wasn’t a big deal to me at all,” Susi shares. “I mean, it’s a big deal, but we all have things that are a big deal. Every relationship has challenges. If it wasn’t this, it would be something else. And to me, any challenge would be worth spending my time with Steve.”
“I had this guilt that I was shouldering her with some sort of burden because of my diagnosis,” Steve says. “But she helped me see that’s just not the case. We both make each other better. We both bring challenges. That’s what relationships are about.”
Susi and Steve say they take each day as it comes and focus on doing the things they love together, like exercising.
“Susi has been a very good influence on my exercise routine,” Steve says. “She really motivates me, especially during COVID when we had to work out at home.”