Redefining Life After DBS – Mt Kilimanjaro

What defines our patients? Is it a rating scale, a stage of disease or dose of medication? Should we make allowances or give in to a perceived limitations? Could we alter the disease course with empowerment by raising the bar of expectations?

My patients’ commonly describe a past filled with distant memories in a body that had found a new normal called Parkinson’s. But do we really know what is possible despite Parkinson’s? Is the pursuit of high adventure a crazy idea that should not be attempted by someone with Parkinson’s? Friend and fellow climber Nathan says no, anything is possible after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, even when Parkinson’s requires DBS to control symptoms.

Nathan and three fellow climbers with PD moved past our perceived ideas about Parkinson’s. Sierra Farris and neurologist Dr. Monique Giroux traveled as medical team supporting and encouraging individuals with Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis to realize life-long dreams and goals that measured beyond most perceptions.

The Leap of Faith Team consisted of fourteen people living with Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis and twelve companions to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Africa July 2011.

The twenty-eight member climbing team was led by Lori Schneider, the first person with MS to climb the seven summits and is an international symbol of the courage and determination necessary to reach beyond the limits.

Through strong camaraderie, team members supported one another and celebrated daily victories that brought tears of enjoyment with each passing day. The team charted their course and the ideas about disease was left behind.

The  adventure encouraged and empowered others to not be defined by their disease but by their abilities and reach beyond a diagnosis. We learned that to alter the course requires believing in one-self as worthy of trying. The climb was about hope, empowerment and support for those living with PD, MS or any challenging condition. It is so important not to be defined by a disease or to give in to what others or society expects that you can or can not do. By coming together this team increased awareness for Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s and showed the world that anything is possible with hope, determination, courage, empathy and support!