Save Me A Dance

The last time I danced with my Dad was two years ago at my nephew Tyler’s bar mitzvah. I never say no to a dance with him, and I love to watch him on the dance floor with others. Not just because he is a good dancer but because the joy he exudes when he dances is contagious. Seriously, if I could bottle it up and sell it, I’d be a millionaire a few times over.

He hasn’t let his Parkinson’s diagnosis slow him down. Dancing is a wonderful form of exercise for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). It helps strengthen muscles and reinforces balance. It also stimulates the mind and keeps depression at bay which is common among those with PD.

It’s also a lot of fun.

I’m hoping for many more dances with Dad, so I’m taking six minutes today to shine a light on PD. April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and someone is diagnosed with it every six minutes in the U.S. Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological disease after Alzheimer’s disease. More than 10 million people worldwide live with Parkinson’s—including my Dad. He was officially diagnosed in 2011 but probably lived with it for years before that. The cause is largely unknown, but research points to a combination of genetics and environmental causes, like pesticides. Coincidentally, there are at least four other people who worked in the same building as my Dad who has or had Parkinson’s, so environmental causes could very well be a factor in his case.

PD is a complex disease to diagnose because many of the symptoms are similar to what happens as we age—walking slowly and shuffling, losing balance, cognitive difficulties, limb stiffness, tremors, and so on. But PD affects dopamine-producing neurons in a specific section of the brain. Dopamine is associated with movement, attention, memory, and learning, and low levels cause various issues. People are typically diagnosed later in life, but early onset is also possible. There are treatments—medication, physical therapy, etc. but so far, no cure.

Research is crucial to finding a cure. I am currently enrolled in the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative, a comprehensive research study funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. I’m also considering genetic testing to see if I have one of the three genes that indicate a higher risk factor for Parkinson’s. It turns out that I have family members on both sides who have been diagnosed with PD, but having the gene doesn’t mean I will ever develop the disease.

Getting off of my soapbox and back to my Dad. He is doing well. He has a terrific support system of friends and family and loves to keep in touch with everyone. And while I see changes in him as the years go by, I know there is still a lot of dancing left for us to do.

If you have a loved one, who has been diagnosed with PD or just want to learn more about this progressive neurological disease, check out the #Take6forPD campaign.

10 comments on Save Me A Dance

  1. Glenda Cates
    April 10, 2023 at 4:02 pm (11 months ago)

    I love that you shared your dad mine is gone and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. Please give your dad a hug for me. As for Parkinson’s it’s a horrible disease but people can thrive with it. we just can’t give up and need to help them.

    • Elisa
      April 12, 2023 at 6:33 pm (11 months ago)

      I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sure you miss him so much. Sending you hugs.

  2. Victoria+Juster
    April 5, 2023 at 7:35 am (11 months ago)

    The relationship that you have with your dad is beautiful, Elisa. Seeing the pictures of the Bar Mitzvah makes me think of the wonderful memories that you’re making with your family. And of course, I love the sparkle in his eye as he dances with you.

  3. Juile
    April 3, 2023 at 7:31 am (11 months ago)

    Thank you for sharing your story about your father and Parkinson’s disease. It is clear that you love and care for him deeply, and I admire your commitment to raising awareness about this important issue.
    My mother-in-law had Parkinson’s so I am a little bit educated about it, and it’s nothing I would wish on anyone.

    I know that Parkinson’s can be a difficult disease to live with, but it is also clear that your father is a strong and determined individual. I am sure that he will continue to inspire you and others with his courage and resilience.

    Thank you again for sharing your story. I wish you and your father all the best.

  4. Josie B.
    April 2, 2023 at 2:34 pm (11 months ago)

    What a lovely picture. It radiates joy and reminds us what is truly important. Wishing you many future dances with your dad.

  5. Danwil Reyes
    April 2, 2023 at 1:44 pm (11 months ago)

    You seem like a nice daughter, and I applaud you for that! Keep up those dancing moves with your dad and the good vibes.

    • Elisa
      April 2, 2023 at 3:19 pm (11 months ago)

      I’m going to do the testing later this year.

  6. Martha
    April 2, 2023 at 1:01 pm (11 months ago)

    I love the smiles while dancing with your dad! I am sad there are so many diseases that they don’t know what causes them or don’t have a cure. Keep hugging and dancing with your handsome dad! I lost my mom in 2000 from Alzheimer’s and it’s hard to watch our loved ones fade.

  7. Jeanine Byers
    April 2, 2023 at 11:54 am (11 months ago)

    What a beautiful picture of you and your father! I’m so glad that you are still getting to dance with him. I had no idea that PD was the 2nd most common neurological disease. Thanks for promoting awareness of it. The older I get, the more I worry about getting one of the diseases, but hopefully, I won’t because I have enough on my plate with chronic fatigue syndrome!