MICHAEL LU JOINS THE PRO BOARD OF DIRECTORSCategory:
Is 17 Too Young to be Diagnosed with PD?
Many years ago, my father migrated to the United States from Taiwan to further his education at UCLA. At that time, my mother was pursuing her third master’s degree at the University of Indiana. Years passed, they eventually met, married, and gave life to me. My parents graced me with much support, love, and understanding.
At my age now, I have come to realize how privileged I am. My parents provided a lifestyle that encouraged and supported my goals. Fortunately, I am not a self-entitled millennial, but rather someone who realizes how truly blessed and precious life has been. Through my family’s culture and practices, they instilled my desire to help and give back to others, but it would have to take years of experience and sequences of ups and downs to realize who I was and what I wanted to become.
I majored in Sociology with the sole intention of joining the Sherriff’s department - to protect our communities and assist people in need of help. It was through this process that I began realizing how unpredictable and challenging life could really be. While I waited for the Department to undergo their background investigation of me, I took other jobs, gaining valuable experience. I took a correctional counselor position at a federal halfway house, allowing me to help many people, some with a dual diagnosis of a mental health disorder and substance abuse addiction. Eventually, I began working as a mental health counselor. I began working in the mental health field with the objective of providing support and assistance to create a positive impact on other’s lives giving them the courage to go forth.
Still desperately waiting for an acceptance from the LA Sherriff’s Department, I started to feel different. And now after several attempts, I finally realized I wasn’t being moved forward in the hiring process. Before applying to the Department that different feeling was frequently experiencing trembling in my body and randomly experiencing stiffness in my legs. Ignoring the sensations for some time, I eventually saw a doctor. Because of my age (17 at the time), the doctors were baffled, and they misdiagnosed me with Essential Benign Tremor. Naturally, I ran to WebMD, like anyone my age would, and read that “A tremor is an involuntary, rhythmic, movement of a body part. Tremor may be seen as involuntary shaking or trembling of the affected area.” Truthfully, I had no idea it would be the real reason I was not being moved forward in the hiring process with the Sheriff’s Department. I was denied as many as four times without reason as to why. Each time they told me that I was “exactly” what their department was looking for, and suggested that I reapply the following year.
After several years, my tremor progressed, and this past year, the polygraph test wasn’t able to accurately configure my results due to my movement during the exam.
I realized that I had to accept the reality of my disability and that I would need to reset my focus on a career that accepted my physical limitations. The satisfaction that I had experienced through my correctional counselor and mental health counselor positions would allow me to continue to serve others in a very positive manner
After the journey through the denial and acceptance of my health issues, I began narrowing the focus of my career path. In 2017, I served as an Instructional Aide for those with disabilities in a local High School District, where my epiphany occurred. I assisted adolescents by giving them positive behavioral tools to replace their disruptive, harmful, or negative behaviors. I realized the important positive impact that a school psychologist has on students with educational needs. Observing my therapeutic process of assisting these students conjured my interest in supporting others in the education setting who suffer from disabilities and limitations, like myself.
While working for the School District, I was fortunate enough to receive better medical insurance enabling me to finally be seen by a neurologist/Movement Disorder Specialist at the UCI medical center. It wasn’t until then, eleven years later, at age 28, that they diagnosed me with Parkinson’s disease.
While in Taiwan and two years earlier, the doctors diagnosed my younger brother with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 22. Yes, we both are unique, as very few people IN THE WORLD receive the diagnosis Parkinson’s disease at the pique of their youth in their 20’s. Although the prognosis is dire, it only affirmed my decision to become a school psychologist.
Not only has my disability with Parkinson ’s disease challenged my life, but it has made me more emphatic and aware of the challenges that others with disabilities suffer. It absolutely is true, that old saying, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes” It has given me a new perspective on what it is to suffer under limitations and challenges beyond one’s control. At the same time, I realize the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and never giving up hope.
Through the positive support from my family and friends, I have been able to hold my head up and face each day with renewed hope and promise. It is also through my roles as a Correctional Counselor, Mental Health Counselor, and as an Instructional Aide, that I gained the confidence and experience not only in addressing my issues but also in putting forth my efforts to support other people with their challenges.
It is evident that nature has taken its course, but I have grown immensely and have learned much from those whom I serve and am grateful for those experiences as it has given me the opportunity to challenge not only them but myself as we journey to rise above our limitations.
To exceed and establish a self-fulling life, I desire to spread my story to others who yearn for support. Initially, support is what has allowed me to accept and take action on my disability. It wasn't until this past year when I was lucky enough to visit a support group, where I met the President and Founder of Parkinson's Resource organization, Jo Rosen. I was hesitant and more than anything uncomfortable because I knew everyone there would be older and therefore, I wouldn't have anyone to relate to really. However, Jo and the others present were and have been my guide to finding resources, research, and support. The purpose of the support group is not only to meet others with Parkinson's, but really to gain empathy from one another, guidance, medical advice, and financial advice as well. Because of my age, Jo and others were very intrigued and mostly surprised with mine and my brother's diagnosis. They immediately scheduled appointments and hosted luncheons to meet with professionals who could potentially help slow my Parkinson's symptoms from progressing. Not only that, Jo has even gone to the extent of helping me and my brother potentially find a cure. Fortunately for me the Parkinson's Resource Organization stands beside me and has invested so much time and sincere efforts.
Ultimately, I was given this disease to provide light for individuals and perhaps for myself to refrain from feeling insecure and or disabled because of Parkinson's. I have chosen to align with the Parkinson's Resource Organization because we all share the same value that no one should be isolated from life itself because of Parkinson's. We are all told, “live your life to the fullest”; I am here to do just that. I am aligning with PRO to do just that ~ raise awareness, generate financial support, and find a cure! To do that, I will continue to share my story and my successful journey with Parkinson's.