December 5, 2014 | Foreword by Darcy Blake, article by Maria De Leon | Dr. De Leon has a remarkable story of tenacity and resilience. After attending school at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, and working as a fellow at Baylor College of Medicine with Dr. Jankovic, she studied at Queen Square Institute in London before she held a solo practice as a Movement Disorder Specialist for ten years. Her career as a physician stopped short when the unthinkable happened, and this is her remarkable story of overcoming obstacles to help people with Parkinson’s Disease. DB
As the saying goes, “there are no rainbows without storms!” It turns out that any perceived rain-storms would pale in comparison to the huge thunderstorm that was about to take over my life…
I had devoted my life to working with Parkinson’s patients and others with rare movement disorders ….this was the culmination of a dream that began as an undergraduate at Penn. It was the calling that propelled me to attend medical school and find comfort and solace among those suffering from neurologic illnesses. But, it was always a burning desire deep within me to try to find a better life for those living with Parkinson’s thus I became a Parkinson’s specialist.
Little did I know that a few years later Parkinson’s would take center stage in all aspects of my life. First, my grandmother developed the illness, and after my grandfather passed away, my family and I learned the true meaning of being a care giver. This experience was invaluable to me as a mother, wife and doctor serving only to reinforce my commitment to those who needed my help. Her passing made me more determined to help with those with Parkinson’s in whatever way possible. But, I was still busy building a practice, and raising a toddler until one day everything stopped suddenly in its tracks. I began to notice I was exhibiting the SAME symptoms as the patients I was EXAMINING! I, too, had Parkinson’s disease!
As dumbfounded and somewhat apprehensive about my future knowing all the intricacies of the disease first hand as I was, it was liberating to know I had a chance to do something I always wanted to do my life! This was the opportunity of a life time…how often do we get a chance to start over? Until now, I had always known or had an inkling of what I was going to do the next day and the day after. But, now the pages were blank….it was up to me to decide if I was going to panic, be paralyzed and consumed by this illness or pray and be empowered by it and continue pursuing my passion in different ways outside of my traditional role as a neurologist.
So, for the past 8 years I have thrown myself full force into my true love – trying to help those with Parkinson’s by raising awareness, funds for research, and become an active advocate for patients and caregivers alike. I have had the great fortune to meet so many wonderful people along the way and participate with top notch organizations like the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation as a People with Parkinson’s Advisory Committee (PPAC) member for the last four years and research advocate for the same organization and worked side by side neurologists and other Parkinson’s patients lobbying in my role as Texas State Assistant Director for PAN to bring about changes in our healthcare system and judicial system to make life for all of us who live with PD better and more meaningful.
I am equally proud to work with the pre-med and nursing students in my area in an attempt not only to teach them about neurology in general and Parkinson’s specifically but motivate young minds to become the next generation of neurologists and neuroscientists which might have the power to unlock the cure to PD.
Finally, I am completing my first book titled: Parkinson’s Diva: A Guide to Women’s Parkinson’s. This book covers all of the salient questions we as women living with Parkinson’s have on a daily basis – from diagnosis, to treatment to marriage and parenting from a perspective of a woman, mother, wife, caregiver, Parkinson’s specialist who is also a Parkinson’s patient. Will be out in spring of 2015!
About Parkinson’s Women Support The mission of Parkinson’s Women Support is to offer moral support, encouragement and camaraderie for women who are Parkinson’s Disease patients. Check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/parkinsonswomen