10 of our favourite Parkinson’s Life stories from 2021

Global update

Author: Johanna Stiefler JohnsonPublished: 30 December 2021

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Maryum Ali with her father Muhammed Ali

We look back at another year of fascinating interviews, illuminating insights, worthwhile campaigns and exciting innovations – and look forward to sharing more stories from the community in 2022


1. “Even Muhammad Ali had a learning curve”

In April, we were lucky enough to speak to Maryum Ali – daughter of Muhammad Ali, the iconic US heavyweight champion and a legend both in the Parkinson’s community and beyond.

Maryum told us about her father’s experience with the condition, her role in continuing his legacy of campaigning – and why she feels education is “key” to living a positive life, with or without Parkinson’s.

“[My father] was a person who, for the majority of his life, was looked at as this beautiful specimen of a skilled athlete and a great mind,” she said. “Then all of a sudden people were looking at him like, ‘What’s wrong with his arm?’ You have to reconcile those two existences and understand what they are. The only way to come out empowered is to know exactly what you have, and to tell people what it is – then you can get your power back.”

Read about Muhammad Ali’s experience with Parkinson’s.

2. How a TikTok video inspired a new pill bottle design for Parkinson’s

US athlete Jimmy Choi.

In January, US-based athlete Jimmy Choi made headlines in the Parkinson’s community and beyond. How? By posting a TikTok video.

In the video, he captured the struggle he faced opening a pill bottle due to difficulties with tremor – and called for pharma companies to “Get a clue!”. Not long afterwards, product designers rallied to design a new pill bottle for people with Parkinson’s.

Read about Jimmy and the new pill bottle design.

3. The Parkinson’s Life podcast

Guests from the Parkinson's Life podcast

Guests have shared varied insights on the Parkinson’s Life podcast.

Launching series two of our podcast has been one of the highlights of 2021 for the Parkinson’s Life team. We’ve loved connecting with people around the world and sharing perspectives on a whole host of topics related to life with Parkinson’s.

Can a Parkinson’s diagnosis spark new passions? How has Covid-19 impacted the community? How can people with Parkinson’s navigate the challenges of dating and relationships? What does food have to do with living well with the condition? Our guests explore all this and more.

Find out more about the latest episode of the Parkinson’s Life podcast.

4. How not to lose sleep over Parkinson’s disease

Young man sleeping in bed

Up to nine in 10 people with Parkinson’s experience sleep disturbance.

If you’re used to tossing and turning at night, you’re likely to understand why sleep is such a crucial topic in the Parkinson’s community. To highlight the EPDA’s ‘Sleep well’ campaign, we talked to three people about sleep hygiene – and the steps worth taking to improve it.

From a Parkinson’s nurse practitioner to a person who’s lived with the condition for nearly half a century – these interviewees know what they’re talking about when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. They shared tips that ranged from staying hydrated and exercising on a regular basis to sleeping in a cool, dark room.

Read what else they recommend to improve sleep with Parkinson’s.

5. A father and daughter on how Parkinson’s disease changed their lives

Craig Barbian and Samantha Felder

Samantha Felder (right) and her father, Craig Barbian (left).

US-based Samantha Felder first started showing young onset Parkinson’s symptoms at only 17 years old and was diagnosed at the age of 21. She and her father, Craig Barbian, spoke to us in September to share her story – and their perspectives on navigating life with the condition.

Reflecting on her Parkinson’s diagnosis, Samantha said she’d learned that “Young onset is not a death sentence. Yes, some days are going to suck but you can live your life. It takes some adapting and hard work.”

Find out more about Samantha and Craig.

6. Is it time for a new image of Parkinson’s disease?

Dr Michael J Okun and Dr Melissa Armstrong

Dr Melissa Armstrong (left) and Dr Michael J Okun (right).

Are new images needed to depict Parkinson’s? According to insights from two experts published in the journal JAMA Neurology, the 1886 drawing often used to depict the condition is long overdue an upgrade.

“This picture is still accurate for some people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr Melissa J Armstrong. “But it doesn’t show that Parkinson disease can have milder symptoms or that Parkinson’s disease occurs in people of different genders, ages and backgrounds. There are also different types of Parkinson disease, with some different symptoms and different speeds of progression.”

Find out more about why it’s time for a new image of Parkinson’s.

7. Five more apps for people with Parkinson’s

Woman tying up shoelaces on trainers

Smartphone apps can help to support exercise and other healthy habits for people with Parkinson’s. 

Did you know you could access Parkinson’s support on your smartphone? We did! That’s why we rounded up five more of our favourite apps for people with the condition.

From helping to improve sleep quality, to analysing gait and tremor, to exercising – these apps may be worth downloading.

Find out more about apps for people with Parkinson’s.

8. “It’s essential to create a workplace where chronic illness is not taboo”

Cathy Molohan sitting at a table on her phone

Campaigner and former business owner Cathy Molohan (left).

“I am still living a wonderful life – albeit with some restrictions, pain and unavoidable changes that I hadn’t foreseen.”

We loved catching up with Germany-based Cathy Molohan in July to learn all about her communications company, EnglishBusiness, what it was like to run a business while living with Parkinson’s – and why she’s passionate about awareness and empowerment for women with the condition.

She shared touching insight into what living with Parkinson’s has meant to her, and why she refuses to waste time “questioning ‘why me?’”.

Read Cathy’s thoughts on running a business with Parkinson’s.

9. From Nordic walking to boxing: six sports for Parkinson’s disease

Senior white-haired woman in activewear and boxing gloves fighting with rival while training before competition

Non-combat boxing may help to improve balance and quality of life.

In August, we rounded up six sports that can help those with the condition to stay mobile – and enhance quality of life.

What exercises do you think have made a difference to your symptoms? If Nordic walking and table tennis aren’t on the list of activities you’ve tried, it could be time to try expanding your horizons – and discover new ways to have fun with fitness.

Read about six sports for Parkinson’s disease.

10. “Together we can make a difference”

Massimiliano Iachini using a megaphone

Italy campaigner Massimiliano Iachini.

We always love hearing about the amazing things that people in the Parkinson’s community have accomplished to raise awareness of the condition. That’s why we reached out to three campaigners from around the world, to find out more about what inspired them to start, what motivates them – and their advice for others who want to do the same.

“I can only say don’t be afraid to start campaigning,” said Massimiliano Iachini from Italy, “because you will find other people, and together we can find the way. That is not easy to find alone.”

Read their advice for other campaigners in the Parkinson’s community.


Read more:

7 of our favourite stories from 2020

7 of our favourite stories from 2019

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