Gretchen Janssen

Gretchen Janssen is a psychotherapist and a pastor in the Presbyterian Church, with a life-long passion for helping others. She was diagnosed in May 2014, when she was 68. The diagnosis was complicated by the fact that her first symptom was tremor in her right foot; a somewhat atypical situation. Gretchen says that the most difficult things about having PD are that she can no longer rely on her voice to allow her to give sermons in church, and that her tremor makes dancing much more difficult.

Gretchen's most useful activities in support of her health include classes in tai chi and Argentine tango, stretching, a PD-specific exercise routine designed by her physical therapist, and walking for 45-60 minutes every day.  

 Gretchen says: "I'm learning to be grateful to people in my life the way they are, and not wanting them to be different. Having PD has allowed me to get to know a new community of people who support me and who I can support. My message to people, whether they have PD or other health challenges or not, is to live as much life as you can, and to support others as much as you can." 

This photograph was taken at a weekly tango practice in Portland, Oregon.

Dale Bennett

Dale Bennett is a retired environmental consultant and an enthusiastic amateur photographer. His goal with this project is to break down stereotypes about people with Parkinson’s disease, using portraits and interviews to show PD patients as the engaged and capable people that we are.

Dale was diagnosed in 2010; his first symptom was a tremor in his left hand, which first appeared in 2003 at the age of 50. Since that time Dale has found that, aside from drugs, the most effective treatment has been exercise and meditation.  Exercise is especially helpful, and Dale’s daily program combines strength, endurance and yoga classes at a nearby gym, along with riding his bicycle, walking, and dancing Argentine tango. Dale had Deep Brain Stimulation surgery in February 2014.  His most difficult symptom is Restless Legs Syndrome, which he controls with the drug Mirapex, but which is extremely painful if he forgets.

Dale’s tremor makes it impossible to hide his condition, which on balance he finds a good thing, but which can also be difficult. Like many PD patients, Dale finds it harder than in the past to do things that require complex multi-tasking, and this has made it difficult to pursue his career.

Dale says, “I have learned from having PD that most people care about me and will help me out.” His message to both other PD patients and others is, “Don’t wait to have the life you want.  Learn to accept help now.  Learn to help others now.” 

Dale is the author of a blog detailing the ups and downs of his life with PD, you canfind it here.

David Schneider

David Schneider is a retired lecturer at a college in Japan where he taught English for many years. He was diagnosed in 1996, when he was 46. David says “PD isn’t a death sentence, but it is a life sentence. You are going to have to deal with this the rest ofyour life, so you had better get used to it.” The hardest things about having PD for David are the difficulty he has in starting and stopping moving, and the extremely sudden wearing off of the Sinemet he takes.

David has a very insightful blog post entitled Five Things I Think I Know About Surviving on the Job with Parkinson’s Disease. You can find this post on the National Parkinson’s Disease web site at: This post is part of the My PD Story section of this site, which contains many inspiring personal stories from patients, caregivers and other family members.

This portrait was taken at the Torii Gate art installation memorializing the internment of Japanese American citizens beginning in 1942.  The installation is located at the Portland Expo Center stop at the end of the MAX yellow line. In 1942, 3,676 people of Japanese descent were held on the grounds of what is now the Expo Center while awaiting transport to more permanent camps in California, Idaho and Wyoming. The location is significant to David because of his strong connection to Japan, (he taught there for many years and his wife is Japanese) and his personal friendship with the artist, Valerie Otani. He believes that 25 years living in Sri Lanka, Korea and Japan has given  him a different kind of perspective on the United States and its responsibilities as a country in the world community.