Amy Lavallee of Bend, Oregon was just 34 years old with a newborn when she was told she had Parkinson’s.
Four years later Amy is living a full life with the disease, managing her symptoms and organizing a family of five household. Her busy life includes traveling with her husband and three sons and caring for her parents.
Amy says she can’t think about what could have been or who she was before being diagnosed. Instead she tries to focus on what she can control now.
“When you’re diagnosed at such a young age, you feel like you got robbed,” Amy said. “Everyday I tell myself “I am who I am today” and try to accept it.”
Amy connects with others who have the disease to get advice and talk about symptoms. But as a young mom she says it’s tough to relate with her additional mom duties and experiences. Even her doctors aren’t always sure how her symptoms relate to her being a young female in her reproductive years. Most research and data is conducted on older adults.
“I didn’t fit into many of the support groups and didn’t relate to the literature I was first given at diagnosis,” she says.
A turning point for Amy came when Brian Grant was featured in Sports Illustrated in 2018.
“When I read the article, I could relate to what Brian was saying about his Parkinson’s journey starting at a young age as a young parent with so many additional obligations,” she said. “I also perfectly understood his compensation techniques to hide tremors.”
That article also helped Amy educate her family and friends about what she was going through.
“It’s extremely hard to live with Parkinson’s while at the same time feeling the pressure to educate others about the disease,” she said. “With the article I could easily say, “Here, read this,” to help my friends and family understand what I was feeling.”
Amy also finds a lot of encouragement and inspiration through BGF’s community programs and social connections. She follows BGF’s social media networks where she finds motivation to exercise, comes up with new dinner recipes and gets involved in social outings, like one of her favorite programs, Pints for Parkinson’s.
“I can easily incorporate BGF’s nutrition and exercise resources into my busy, daily life,” she said. “I really like BGF’s recipes and now I realize the power that food has to ease symptoms.”
Before Covid, Amy loved attending Zumba class. And now with gym closures and stay at home orders, Amy said she stays active with a rowing machine at home and goes for walks. But like many others, she says it’s hard to stay motivated and looks forward to classes opening up again soon.
Amy appreciates BGF’s positive outlook and programs to help make a difference in the lives of people living with Parkinson’s. BGF helps her make little changes that balance having Parkinson’s and what can be a grim future with not letting it overrun her whole life.
“I strive to be a good mom,” she says. “Maybe not a Pinterest mom! But a devoted mom and wife who might need help from time to time, but doesn’t put things off and lives for today.”