Tamra Cantore has been one of the unstoppable stars in the Parkinson’s community. For 15 years, she has staged Countrified Rock for Research in her hometown of Atlanta, GA. To date, she’s raised $1 million for both the Parkinson’s Unity Walk as well as The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
When did you first get involved with The Parkinson Alliance?
I met Carol Walton at the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C., way back when. Everyone was talking about the Parkinson’s Unity Walk, and that’s the first year that I went. They were still doing registrations by hand—that’s how long ago it was! But it was wonderful, and I became a fan!
What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?
I always tell people they need to get to see a movement disorder specialist. This was a huge step in my treatment when I met my neurologist at Emory. They just have more direct experience, and are more in tune with the latest medications, methods for treatment and possible side effects.
The other piece of advice? Don’t stop. Whatever it is that you do, don’t stop. Find a way to do it, to engage yourself, especially in physical activity. It makes such a difference in your symptoms.
I go to a functional training class. They adapt weight training and other exercises to your abilities. I also go to physical therapy there and do some stretching at home on my own. Functional training has been my helper for the last few years, and I highly recommend it! But any exercise is good if you love it and will stick with it. I always say I didn’t like running before I got PD; so I don’t know why I should like it now! But I do love functional training and hitting a tennis ball every once in a while.
Music of whatever kind you enjoy is a helpful tool as well.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by “overcomers.” Everyone has their own set of challenges, and it inspires me to see people who have “beaten the odds” of survival in impossible circumstances, which is clearly at the hand of God. Watching the way other people I know who are dealing with a chronic disease handle their circumstances with grace and a giving spirit to try and make it easier on others. Bill Wilkins and other friends here in Atlanta have been a wonderful support system, but that’s pretty common in the PD community. Seeing people dealing with adversity either like me or similar to me and giving it their all really makes me feel good and inspires me. It really makes me want to keep going and do things for other people and not just for myself.
What do you dislike?
I hate the fact that my children have never seen me without Parkinson’s disease. It’s hard for them to understand why I’m not like other Moms sometimes. I have two adult children with a genetic learning disorder, so it is particularly hard for them to understand.
What keeps you going?
I have my faith in Christ. Without it, I feel overwhelmed and discouraged. I don’t believe I would be handling things as well these last 22 years without faith. It provides hope and takes the burden off me. I don’t have to feel that I’m responsible for figuring everything out. When I offload my worries and the weight of my troubled heart to God, it gives me peace and the ability to carry on because I know he’s got my back. He’s going to walk with me through whatever comes my way. It’s my job to put my trust in HIM that He will lead me where I’m supposed to be.
I learned early on not to look at a roadblock as an obstacle that cannot be overcome. He believes that there is always another way around it. My father was a big proponent that nothing is a dead end. It’s just a temporary set-back.
I have taken my sale skills from my work at the Weather Channel and use them for my fundraising. I work on it 365 days a year. But now, after 15 years, this will be my last Countrified Rock for Research. It’s just time to focus on other things.