“There is something marvellous about taking control of our lives”
Author: Aileen ScoularPublished: 21 April 2022
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Author and blogger Jo Yaldren spent a year saying ‘yes’ to a host of new activities, many of them for the first time. She describes the positive impact her ‘Year of Yes’ has had on her experience of life with Parkinson’s
Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience of Parkinson’s.
My name is Jo Yaldren and I live on the northeast coast of England with my husband and our youngest daughter. I used to be a nurse and a university lecturer, and I love travel, adventures and fun, as well as creating art, beach-cleaning and dog walks.
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s nearly seven years ago when I was just 47. I’d been struggling with fatigue and I had a tremor in my left hand. My handwriting had diminished, and I was tripping up a lot, especially when climbing the stairs. But I had no idea those symptoms were associated with Parkinson’s, so the diagnosis totally side-swiped me.
At first, I felt ashamed. It took counselling and a couple of years before I felt comfortable sharing my situation with others. But I thought that sharing my journey might help someone else, and it quickly gave me a sense of purpose.
Jo had no idea her symptoms of tremor and fatigue could be associated with Parkinson’s.
Has your outlook on life changed since your diagnosis?
While I wouldn’t wish a Parkinson’s diagnosis on anyone, it has brought with it gifts that I’m truly grateful for. It gave me a profound sense of what really mattered, and it soon became clear that the most precious things in my life were not actually ‘things’. Instead, they were time and the people I love.
Tell us about your ‘Year of Yes’ and what it involved.
Since my diagnosis, I have stopped waiting to do the things that are meaningful to me. Having Parkinson’s has given me a sense of urgency and clarity. Unless a cure is found, this condition means I can’t assume I’ll be well enough to wait for a future time to do activities.
Reading Shonda Rhimes’ book ‘Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person’ was also a catalyst for my own ‘Year of Yes’, which enriched my life in so many ways. The memories created, connections formed and new skills acquired have all enhanced my day to day life and sustained me during the pandemic and on days where my symptoms are challenging.
For example, I had wanted to visit the Chelsea Flower Show since 1991 when I nursed in a hospital nearby. After 20 years of thinking, ‘I’ll book it for next year,’ I went and had a brilliant day.
On a whim, a friend and I went stand-up paddle boarding which was nowhere near as difficult as I’d imagined. My husband and I did a surreal yoga class at the Natural History Museum in London. I dabbled with archery and I raised funds for Parkinson’s charities. I also did a Boxing Day dip in the North Sea – freezing but fun! – and I modelled for the fashion label Preen at Port Eliot Festival. That was an incredible experience and I met some wonderful people.
Jo’s ‘Year of Yes’ involved archery, swimming and modelling for a fashion label. Photo credit: Louise Roberts
Are there any specific activities that you would recommend to people with Parkinson’s?
The memories created and the new skills acquired during my ‘Year of Yes’ sustain me on days where my symptoms are challenging. I would particularly recommend activities that keep you active and social… dancing, yoga, Tai Chi, swimming and cycling, for example. But a ‘Year of Yes’ can be about all sorts of choices, big and small.
So, my advice to anyone – with or without Parkinson’s – is to live your life right now. Use the good soap. Wear your best clothes. Book the dream trip. There is something marvellous about taking control of our lives, when we have little control over our Parkinson’s progression.
And I hope that after reading this, you might feel inspired to add a little ‘yes’ and a lot of joy to your journeys.
Jo’s advice for people living with and without Parkinson’s is “to live your life right now”.
Need to know
Jo Yaldren is a former nurse and lecturer who now blogs and campaigns for Parkinson’s. Based in England, she is married with two daughters, “a large loving family and an amazing group of friends”. Jo recently undertook a ‘Year of Yes’ and regularly shares her adventures online. She encourages others to share their own adventures with her on her Instagram.
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