Peter Broffman was diagnosed in fall of 2013 when he was 64 years old. Peter had retired a few months earlier, primarily to spend time with his elderly parents, but also to “move on to the next phase of his life”. Peter had spent the last 18 years of his career with Intel, originally as the Executive Director of the Intel Foundation, and later as Manager of Intel’s Global Digital Literacy programs.
Peter’s first symptom was a slight tremor in his right thumb and hand. Over the past couple of years his tremor has increased somewhat, and now occurs intermittently in both hands and in his jaw. Also, walking is a sometimes a little clumsy, and he has some weakness in his voice. Nevertheless, to date his symptoms are not severe and feel quite “manageable”. Peter does not take medication. He finds exercise to be very helpful, including participating in the Rock Steady boxing program three days per week. On “off days” from Rock Steady, he walks or works out on an elliptical exercise machine.
When first diagnosed, Peter told only his family and very close friends about having PD. He has since expanded the circle, but he doesn’t feel the need to make a big deal out of it. He says: “Parkinson’s is a big part of my life, but doesn’t define my life. It’s not the first or most important thing people need to know about me”. He finds the issue of when to mention it to people to be more of a dilemma in his dating life. When meeting someone new, he tends to wait until there is a true connection. “I certainly don’t hide my PD and am willing to talk about it to anyone, but my symptoms are not always obvious. I like to have someone get to know other things about me before we talk about my Parkinson’s”.
What has Peter learned from having PD? First, that anyone’s life can turn in unexpected ways, and it’s how you respond to these changes that matters the most. Second, that it’s helpful not to isolate yourself. Engage with others with PD, and learn how to manage it. In this, Peter was influenced by advice that he heard from John Palfreman, author of Brain Storms. To paraphrase, “You are now a member of a tribe. You may not have selected it, but you can embrace it and become a full member. If you do that it will help you, and you will learn a lot from others in the tribe”. Peter has done that, and it’s been very beneficial. Peter has been very impressed by others, seeing how they’ve found ways to manage their PD, and live very effective lives.
To people who don’t have PD, Peter says, "Parkinson's Disease doesn’t define who we are as human beings. Try to understand it and how it affects us, but recognize that as individuals, we are more than our Parkinson’s". For both those with PD and those without it, Peter says, “Live the life you want now, because you never know what’s coming next.”