Patient Stories

Teri Jewell

Teri was first diagnosed some 10 years ago at the age of 62. An advocate for the benefits of exercise, she participates in eight research-based, Parkinson’s-specific classes a week, aims to walk/run 7,000 steps per day and works on her voice with The Loud Crowd/Parkinson’s Voice Project and alignment to boot. Stronger than ever with non-stop energy, Teri is a big cheerleader for Team Parkinson.

When did you first get involved with The Parkinson Alliance?
Through Team Parkinson. John Ball comes around to various support groups and talks about the LA Marathon and the 5K. I’m a person who never exercised, ever… But he looks so great, and he was so enthusiastic— I thought, why don’t I give it a try?  What I like about Team Parkinson and the Alliance is that we can challenge ourselves all year long to prepare, but then we’re racing with people.  And you can see how you measure up.  It’s safe for everyone and raises awareness for PD. People see me practicing on the treadmill and it’s a good conversation opener. It allows me to talk to people who may want to donate.

What is the one thing you’d like every person just diagnosed with PD to know?
How much power they have over their situation. They can either give up or show up. It’s an investment in your life and future. Are you going to make deposits or withdrawals? It’s been documented that exercise creates new neural pathways in your brain. For me, once I started, my mood elevated, I slept better, I went down in my medications and had the energy to be social. I’m now in better shape than I was in high school.  Anyone just diagnosed should know that their life can actually improve! They don’t have to take it as a death sentence.

What inspires you?
Music!  I love music with a beat when I’m on the treadmill and music is good for relaxing. I also get inspired by challenges.  Sometimes, I go on public buses from my home in Orange County up to Los Angeles and discover new neighborhoods, just to figure it out!  Sometimes, I push myself to do things that I didn’t think I could do— like jump rope! It took a while but I finally got the hang of it, and made a video! The reality is that it’s not fun to challenge yourself. It’s uncomfortable. My physical therapist, Dr. Claire McLean, who specializes in helping people with Parkinson’s, says that if you don’t challenge your body and your brain, you won’t change them.  I owe my success at living such a full and happy life to her.

What do you dislike?
When I’ve made bad food choices or stayed up too late at night, and then don’t feel well enough the next day to commit myself to exercise.

What are you most proud of?
My times in the LA Marathon 5K race. I would never have thought of racing, because I didn’t like sweating. This year I finished in 50 minutes, 18 minutes faster than last year. Come on, I’m a year older! Each year I get a lot better. This year, I finished 8th in my age group, and four years ago I finished 21st in my age group, and 22 minutes slower!

Next year, I’m looking forward to being even faster.  My lungs are getting stronger doing the voice exercises with the Loud Crowd, which allows me to take deeper breaths that increase my stamina.

What do you wish more people knew about Parkinson’s but they don’t?
That you cannot do this alone; you need a strong group of supportive people around you. Someone who’ll say “let’s go for a walk”. People can’t do it by themselves. If possible, they should work with a physical therapist and a speech therapist who specializes in Parkinson’s.

What’s your favorite word or saying?
No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up, and never give up!!!

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