“The happiest people I have known are those that gave themselves no concern about their own souls, but did their utmost to mitigate the miseries of others.” Elizabeth C. Stanton
The other day I was watching the movie titled “Suffragette starring Meryl Steep about the women’s moment for equality in the late 1800’s in London. Seeing all the atrocities committed against women made me think of today’s world and our own women initiative in the Parkinson’s community. For years, women fought to obtain the right to be heard, to be law makers, to be leaders whose voices were meant to be heard above the roar of the crowd. Yet, sometimes I wonder if we have forgotten the sacrifices of those women that came before us? it seems some of us have settled into a quasi state of ‘laissez-faire’ allowing the same atrocities and women discrimination to go on around in and out of our communities. it saddens me to realize that even after a century since women obtained ‘equality,’ we are still considered or at least treated as second class citizens in many realms of society. Unfortunately, much to my chagrin one of these areas lies within my realm of expertise-Parkinson’s disease.
However, recently I have begun to see a stir in the women with PD community in attempting to once again challenge preconceived notions and decrease the disparity that exists in treatment and general care when it comes to women’s issues. Although, we have gained the right to be heard as women, we still fall short of receiving the same type of treatment as our male counterparts with PD. Women with PD take longer to get diagnosed, see fewer MDS specialists and even when they do they are not offered the same treatment – fewer times get offered the standard treatment of care- DBS-(deep brain stimulation) compared to men with PD. Even when both genders present with the same symptoms such as behavioral problems- independent of the type “men were more likely to receive antipsychotics while women receive antidepressants, according to a study looking at behavioral differences in PD by gender.
However, the longer, I live with PD and work closely with those afflicted by this chronic progressive neurodegenerative illness and their families… I feel a great power surging among the women with Parkinson’s. The women with PD initiative like the suffragette movement is starting a snowball effect among all women of all neurological and medical diseases not just PD. Like a snowball rolling down hill it is destined only to gain strength the further it rolls. The courageous women with PD and their families are fighting their own battle like in days of old to uphold the right to be heard to fight for equality of health care for the things that matter most to all of us women. I am proud to stand in the ranks arm to arm with the many PD women who refuse to be ignored and ostracized and are taking charge of their own lives.
Our purpose is to live and live well with a devastating illness yet be able to do it with such gusto that PD appears to others like a mere inconvenience because we are strong and capable women of caring for our families, children and our parents. But as such strong willed women who take courage and comfort from the women who have gone before us demand our given right to be heard thus be able to receive the same standard of care.
It is in such capacity that we women with PD are trying to make waves and change the status quo once more challenging conventional wisdom regarding women’s issues in PD. So, the other day I was glad to have had the honor and pleasure of meeting with other fabulous woman in the battle against PD across the country in California thanks to social media. We had the chance to laugh and share with one another our concerns, issues and challenges with this so called Parkinson’s disease. We got to discuss the Parkinson’s diva -a women’s guide to Parkinson’s disease book.We vowed not only to uplift one another but to spread awareness in the women’s PD community as well as in the health community advocating for a holistic approach to women’s issues. Thank you to Debbie, Darcy, and Sharon and all the other great women for allowing me into your home and keep up the great job you are doing in your community.
*Hubert H. Fernandez, MD, †‡Kate L. Lapane, PhD, *‡Brian R. Ott, MD, and *Joseph H. Friedman, MD: (2000) “Gender Differences in the Frequency and Treatment of Behavior Problems in Parkinson’s Disease.” Movement Disorders.15(3). pp. 490–496.