Editor’s Note: This is the second of four profiles highlighting stories of local people with Parkinson’s disease, as part of Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April. Read the next profile on Steve Wolf in next Sunday’s paper.
Daisy Davenport is an active person. She hikes, she attends fitness classes, and she does this all while also having to deal with Parkinson’s Disease.
“I think being active has helped,” Davenport said. “I didn’t even know much about Parkinson’s until I found out I had it.”
Davenport, 76, diagnosed in 2004, said she may have actually been dealing with the disease since 1995 when a symptom, not many knew of then, happened to her.
“I lost my sense of smell,” Davenport said. “People may not know that is one of the things that can happen.”
It was seven years later at work when her legs started shaking under her desk that she decided to consult a physician — although that became difficult. Initially she was told that it was arthritis in her neck. She then consulted a neurologist who diagnosed her with Parkinson’s.
Davenport said she did not really think too much about the disease before she was diagnosed and even for a few years after it was not a great detriment to her well-being. She has stayed fit by taking part in City and Borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation hikes. She has been doing the hikes since 1986 and said she believes they are part of the reason she has seen slow progression with Parkinson’s.
“I have been doing those hikes for a long a time,” Davenport said. “I don’t do them as much now. I usually just meet up and go a little bit, but I think it has helped.”
While she and her movements have slowed and her handwriting is not quite what it used to be, Davenport said the effects of Parkinson’s haven’t greatly impacted her life.
“I am just a little slower and my handwriting has really gone downhill,” Davenport said. “I really haven’t notice that big of a difference other than that. It has been pretty slow progressing. Sometimes I have hard time distinguishing whether it is my Parkinson’s or just symptoms of getting older. It can be hard not knowing which doctor to go see.”
She also fears another medical issue that can come with the disease may eventually impact her.
“I definitely fear getting dementia,” Davenport said. “But, I try not to think about it.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, “An estimated 50 to 80 percent of those with Parkinson’s eventually experience dementia as their disease progresses. The average time from onset of Parkinson’s to developing dementia is about 10 years.”
Davenport met friend Kerry Howard, who also has Parkinson’s, as part of the Parks and Recreation hikes and said having someone along in the battle against the disease has been a great help.
“It helps to know you are not alone,” Howard said. “We actually hardly even talk about (Parkinson’s) when we are together.”
Both also participate in Pavitt Health and Fitness’ Rock Steady Boxing. Davenport said she enjoys the workout, but also finds another aspect of the class engaging.
“I like being around all the people here,” she said.
Throughout the disease, Davenport has kept her head up. She still moves as much as she can and takes her prescription to help slow the disease. She wants others who have been diagnosed to know there is more to life beyond the disease.
“You just want to make sure you have a good doctor,” Davenport said. “It is not the end of the world. It’s really just another thing you have to deal with. You can cope with it.”
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at email@example.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.