June Denham is a retired substitute teacher. She first suspected she had PD in the late 1990's, but did not begin taking medication until 2005. Both June's mother and grandmother had PD, so the diagnosis was not a surprise. She told people as her symptoms became noticeable, and has experienced support from others from the beginning.
June’s first symptoms included small handwriting, along with difficulty lifting and carrying heavy objects. As time has gone by she has also had to deal with freezing. The most difficult things to deal with have been not knowing what she will be able to do, and the continuing loss of function.
Helpful things in managing her symptoms have been levodopa (she takes the timed-release and regular versions), the Dance for PD class, and having music in the house. But the most important factor in her health has been her husband Bill. Bill and June had known each other in high school, but had not been in contact until they re-met at their 50th reunion in 2009, the first reunion either of them had ever attended. It was there that she shared a poem--spoke it by heart, from memory--which she had written in her Senior year of high school. The poem was in the form of a prayer to God that expressed her desire that one day she and her Bill "would be One." Bill lived in California at the time; they began to correspond by email which soon progressed to regular evening telephone conversations and three months later, in December of that year, he visited June. By the end of the visit he knew he would eventually move to Portland. Despite his deep connections to his community in California his visits became longer and more frequent. In March 2013 he moved to Portland permanently, and they were married in December of that same year.
"Before getting reacquainted with Bill, for example, I had only a minimal curiosity about poetry. When Bill came to Portland, he had to seek out poetry happenings. So I started attending poetry readings and other poetry-related events with him which enriched my life and gave me an opportunity to even participate, reciting some poems that I had learned as a child and in grammar and high school. As I became more comfortable, I began to read some of the poems I loved and I have committed one of Bill's poems in his collection: "Of gossamers and grace,"--the story of our reconnection--to memory--"Point Reyes--the wind and the song of the wild oats."
June says, "Having a partner has enriched my life and has, as well, given me a reason to re-engage with my faith community in ways that were difficult for me to do when I was single. Of course, this was even more true when I had to relinquish my driver's license. And then we have developed a ritual together of attending a movie every Tuesday afternoon. We started that ritual at the Academy Theater on SE Stark Street because we could go on Tuesday's for $3.00 for the two of us. So we always check to see if anything is playing at the Academy that we want to see. If there is not we will check out Livingroom Theater on SW 10th in downtown Portland, where we saw the French film called "The Innocent" today, or Cinema 21 in the Northwest. Our last resort might be the more expensive mainline theaters like Eastport 16 or Fox Tower 10. Even if, like today, I am moving slowly and don't feel like I can make it, I find that committing to going and actually doing it, always lifts my spirits--as is the case when I am at home and having difficulty with freezing, I find that walking around the block with Bill will always improve things."
Asked what she has learned from having PD, June says “I’ve learned to accept the limitations without letting them limit my life. This is a hard thing to learn and I have to work on it every day, sometime every hour.” She adds, “I’ve realized how my mother felt when she had PD and though I was diagnosed before my mother died, I never told her, feeling like that was something that she didn't really need to know” June’s advice for those who are newly diagnosed is what Bill often says to her “You are not Parkinson's. You are June!" Don’t ever forget that. Take that trip you’ve been thinking about now! Or go to that movie or walk around the block!”