At 21, Kim started her career in education.
At 29, she became an assistant principal.
At 31, she had her son and soon after experienced trouble walking.
At 34, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
“I woke up realizing that I have a child to live for and I have so much life left,” Kim said. “I can give up, but if it wasn’t for him I don’t know if I would be pushing through. I have a son, I have been through so much and there is no way I can give up.”
A wave of worsening symptoms, from difficulty washing her hair to not being able to move the entire left side of her body, made Kim go back to her doctor, who incorrectly diagnosed her with sciatica (nerve pain that radiates from the lower back).
“You definitely don’t have sciatica,” the doctor told Kim at her follow-up appointment. He asked if Parkinson’s ran in her family, completed some basic motor tests and then referred her to a neurologist.
“You are one of the healthiest people I have ever seen in my life,” the first of three neurologists told Kim. Six months of extensive testing later, her third neurologist — a movement specialist disorder —administered an in-office motor test and immediately diagnosed her with Parkinson’s. Kim was a few days shy of her 34th birthday.
With no family history, she told her doctors about a childhood experience where a tornado hit her elementary school, leaving nine children dead and injuring 17. Kim suffered from severe head trauma that day. Her doctors theorized that this brain injury could have caused her Parkinson’s, which may have stayed dormant until she had her son. After her diagnosis, a brain scan showed that one side of her brain had almost no dopamine and the other only had a little.
“Honestly, I was always a negative Nancy and it was even worse after I was diagnosed. I was full of fear and felt like my life was over,” Kim said. But Kim decided to begin thinking positively, for her son.
“Support groups did not help. People were negative and didn’t share my outlook. I started to connect with people on Facebook, looking for people who shared my new perspective.” Kim started a Facebook group for people living with PD.
“We talk to each other online when we need support. When you share what is going on in your life and know someone else’s story, you quickly become friends. The socialization helped me to continue working out, too,” Kim said.
Kim finds solace in exercise. “My job is really stressful, so having that time to get some of the frustrations out is great,” she said. Kim’s 4:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule forces her to constantly switch up her daily workouts. “I do everything from home — high intensity cardio, yoga, Pilates. Every time I finish a program I change it to something else.”
Exercise helped, but Kim’s medications were faltering. Her neurologist brought up deep brain stimulation (DBS), but the 36-year-old wasn’t ready for brain surgery. As a last effort before moving to DBS, the doctor tweaked Kim’s medications. She had to re-start her medication regimen all over, but it was worth it. After several weeks, her PD symptoms were unrecognizable. “I am on a patch and take twenty three pills a day. For the most part I am doing really well and feel amazing.” Sleeping is now her biggest challenge.
A high-stress job, raising a son as a single mother and managing Parkinson’s in her 30’s all come with their own challenges and anxieties. Kim constantly tries natural treatments. In addition to working out, she uses essential oils and strongly believes in just spending time outside, doing things she loves. “When I leave work, I disconnect with school and connect with my son,” she said. “I go through periods of meditation, depending on what is going on in my life. Right now, I am doing really well so it is not necessary,” Kim said.
Once Kim became part of the PD community, she looked for a local event she could become a part of — Moving Day Boca Raton. “As soon as I was diagnosed I wanted to immediately get involved,” she said. Kim became team captain to team “Dope” Amines, raising $5,000 for Parkinson’s research her first year and $3,000 in 2017.
Kim hosts raffles and auctions to raise funds for her team. Last year, Kim asked for donations instead of birthday presents to raise funds for PD. Kim is already strategizing for Moving Day Boca Raton, which takes place November 4, 2018.
In terms of managing her Parkinson’s and Moving Day team, Kim said, “I am a go getter. I do the best I can. It’s about turning OBSTACLES INTO OPPORTUNITIES. I want people to look at me and say BECAUSE OF YOU, I DID NOT GIVE UP”
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