A Family of Hope

My name is Meg Bernard. I am a 37 year old mother of three. I am a musician, an author, an advocate, a motivational speaker, a seamstress and designer, a passionate volunteer in the community and I have Parkinson disease (PD). I received my official diagnosis when I was 33 but for several years before that I had been living with ever-increasing PD symptoms. The past few years have been a journey of tears and hope. I have lost some of my independence but I have learned that even though I ultimately face my struggles alone, there are people who want to help, who make a huge difference in my life and who help me work through the challenges of my disease.

The day after I was diagnosed I remember thinking that there had to be other people out there like me. I couldn’t be the only one. The idea of “knowing others” appealed to me. I felt like there would be safety in numbers, that there would be people who would understand me and help me put into words what I was feeling. So I went on the internet and Googled “Parkinson Disease, Alberta”, which brought me to the Parkinson Alberta (PA) website

The next day I contacted the (PA) office. They very quickly took me under their wing; giving me support and helping me know that I’m not alone. A month later I joined the Parkinson’s Choir which is held at the PA office. As a singer, I saw this as a wonderful way to keep my voice strong and interact with other people who have PD. Attending this group has made a huge difference in my life. The people who attend the choir have become my PD family. It is a place where I feel comfortable, understood and cared for.

The next thing I became aware of was the Hope conference. They were looking for people to volunteer to bring displays of things that had been created by people with PD. As a designer and a seamstress I was asked to display one of my designs. I was nervous but agreed. That request is what got me into the door of Hope Conference.

It was at that conference that I realized I had finally found my place. I introduced myself to the staff and said, in my ‘subtle’ way, “Hi, I’m Meg. I am 33 years old and have young onset PD. I believe that it is my responsibility to raise awareness and advocate for other young people with PD, but first I have to find them. I will do ANYTHING that you want me to do in order to achieve this purpose. Just point me in a direction and I’ll go. I promise that I will do the best I can and you won’t regret it”.  Fortunately they realized that I wasn’t crazy, thanked me for my willingness and then promised to be in contact with me. From that moment on my life and passion has carried me onward and upward, through trials and challenges as well as incredible joy.

I believe that there is HOPE for all people with Parkinson Disease. Is there really an alternative? I am convinced that for a person with Parkinson Disease to maintain health, both physically and emotionally, we need to be connected to a community of people who can fully understand the world in which we live. Who can empathize, support, give encouragement, grieve and have fun with one another. I believe we are a family.

As long as I can remember, my vision of the future has been one in which I work to make a difference in the world. Raise awareness for those in need, give strength to those who are tired and give a voice to those who don’t have one. I have wanted to change the world in such a way that I would leave it a better place. At the time my vision included having a body that was strong, that could move, that could go and go and go and never tire. That was not meant to be, but I will still live my dream. Even though my body is not what I hoped it would be, I am aware that living with PD gives me the opportunity to speak with more passion and authority on behalf of those whose lives I can make a difference in.

Love and Hugs

~ Meg

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