Jeff Connerton was diagnosed in September 2015, although his symptoms first began to appear a few years earlier. His main symptom is a tremor in his right hand. Jeff is left handed, and although his tremor is mostly in his right hand, his hand writing has started to deteriorate. Jeff is 65 and has recently applied for Social Security and Medicare.
Jeff has had a varied career. He graduated from Rutgers with a degree in history, and although academia didn’t call to him as a vocation, history still informs his view of the world. He founded and operated Fresh Tofu, Inc., a soyfoods manufacturing company in Pennsylvania; eventually a partner bought him out and he spent the next 25 years building stone walls and patios. He has been an enthusiastic amateur photographer since college.
Jeff has been writing for 40 years and calls it “my timeless passion”. He is a self-published author of three books, and he generally has a writing project in progress. His web site is: www.spangproductions.com.
In the seven months since his diagnosis Jeff says that he spent the first few months struggling with intense anxiety and depression, describing it as “being on a freight train that I may not be able to slow down.” This changed as he began to encounter research on neuroplasticity, including with PD. Based on this, he is looking into exercise as a way to manage his symptoms and hopefully slow the progression of the disease. He works out at OHSU a couple days a week, does yoga, and walks. Diet is important: Jeff tends toward fruits, vegetables, legumes and some grains and limits his intake of meat and dairy, with the exception of exceptional cheeseburgers. He takes comfort in the fact that “if it becomes too much I’m not afraid to pull the plug - not that this is imminent”. At this point he says he is “feeling full of life.”
The only drug Jeff takes currently is a NUEPRO (Rotigitine) patch. Although the patch works well it is difficult to get insurance to cover more than 30% of it, and the cost is high. He hopes that coverage will be better through Medicare.
Jeff attends the monthly programs at the Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon and the School of Natural Healing, and finds them useful.
Jeff has told everyone in the immediate family about his diagnosis. He has told some friends though not everyone. He doesn’t consider it a secret but isn’t broadcasting it either.
What has Jeff learned from having PD? He says: “Ive learned a lot about the power of love and sharing, about looking for positive things for my future, things that are bigger than PD. I try to stay busy with things that are meaningful.”
Jeff says to people who don’t have PD: “Practice the golden rule.”
Photo: Didi Schlabach