Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Here's My Story by Betsy

Evvie Dunkel Heilbrunn created a “Bucket List,” many years ago, at the top of her list was to visit Base Camp at Mt. Everest. Evvie is a two-time Breast Cancer survivor and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2009.  Evvie is the mother of four; prior to being diagnosed with PD she was a successful litigation attorney in DC. 

As Evvie put it, “I’m 57 years old, have had breast cancer twice and live with Parkinson’s, not your poster child of health.  Frankly, after I was diagnosed with breast cancer (the second time) I scratched Base Camp off my list and reconciled myself to the fact that it would never happen.”

Some might call her journey a miracle; others would simply call it fate.  In early 2012 Evvie reconnected with a friend from Upper Arlington High School (suburb of Columbus, Ohio), he too was going through chemotherapy.  They quickly became “chemo buddies.  “When you are going through chemo it can be a lonely journey.  Unless you’ve “been there-done that”, you just don’t get it.  Chemo was no walk in the park, having someone to share my thoughts with was my saving grace.  My friend Greg became my sounding board and in the end he became my inspiration.”  Sadly Greg passed away in August 2012.  “The greatest gift I was given by Greg was a love of life.  Even through the worst of times he had a smile on his face and a kind word to share.”
As fate would have it, after Greg died Evvie met his brother and mentioned her bucket list, he told her about a group out of La Jolla that summited Mount Kilimanjaro in 2011, and among them were three Parkinson’s patients. He went on to say, “The group is called Summit4StemCell, they are planning a trip to Base Camp in 2013.”  Evvie was speechless, is it possible that she could accomplish what she thought was now impossible.  The next day Evvie contacted Summit4StemCell, they invited her to join them in climbing for a cause.  Evvie will take the trek of a lifetime in October 2013, in doing so; she will check Base Camp off her bucket list.

In October of 2012 Evvie visited Scripps Center for Regenerative Medicine and had a chance to tour the Loring Lab and to meet some of the other folks who are going to Everest with her.  The research focuses on non-embryonic stem cell research.  She could hardly contain her excitement, “I saw up close the work that Drs. Loring and Houser are doing and it truly is amazing.  I was filled with hope after visiting the lab.  I honestly feel that someday there will be a treatment that can help me and others with Parkinson’s.”

Summit4StemCell is led by Sherrie Gould, a nurse practitioner at the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorder Center. As a member of the Summit4StemCell team Evvie is climbing for a cause, the ultimate goal is to inspire people with PD to move beyond their physical limitations.  

 ©Evelyn Heilbrunn
all rights reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment