One day around the time of the 2010 Olympics, Liz Campbell-Holroyd was reading a magazine that wouldn’t stay still. A tremor had started in her ring finger.
“When I saw that, I just thought: That’s not normal,” the South Surrey resident recounted.
A doctor would later confirm what she already suspected. At age 52, Campbell-Holroyd, a working professional and mother of six in a blended family, had Parkinson’s disease.
Now, she’s putting her energy into a cause to better the lives of the 13,300 British Columbians who live with the neurodegenerative brain disorder.
Before her diagnosis, Campbell-Holroyd had already read the books of Michael J. Fox – the Burnaby-raised actor diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991 at age 29 after developing a finger tremor. So when she developed a tremor of her own, Campbell-Holroyd knew having the disease was a possibility.
She also thought it could be something worse.
“I tried to push that out of my mind for awhile and think of other things,” she said. “When (my doctor) said I had Parkinson’s, I was actually relieved. I felt I could at least manage it.”
Parkinson’s disease progresses slowly in most people and affects people in different ways, but common symptoms include tremors, stiffness, impaired balance and muscle rigidity. Other non-motor symptoms may develop as the disease progresses. There is no cure, but those with Parkinson’s can live long lives with the help of medication, therapy and even surgery.
Campbell-Holroyd’s diagnosis in September 2010 was a life-changer – the “curveball” people talk about.
After her tremor grew, becoming noticeable to colleagues, she told her boss but continued working until 2013. She loved her career in advertising, and at the time saw leaving work as giving in to the disease. She later realized putting her energy into herself – with the hope of slowing the progression of the disease – was the best move.
Now Campbell-Holroyd – who turns 58 this month – is on medication to mask tremors and remains positive. She’s also taking better care of herself than ever before.
“I had a very busy life. Nothing stopped me. I was constantly on the go,” she said. “Being diagnosed… really made me focus in on myself and my health, and taking care of me.”
She exercises regularly – running, walking, gym workouts, yoga – which helps manage symptoms and improves quality of life.
“They just can’t tell you how you are going to progress. They just don’t have any idea.”
In an effort to give back and help others with the disease, Campbell-Holroyd and her supporters have started a White Rock chapter of the Parkinson SuperWalk – the Parkinson Society BC’s largest fundraising event of the year.
On Sept. 11, walkers will gather at Kintec (15185 Russell Ave., across from the Whaling Wall) to give hope to the thousands in B.C. living with Parkinson’s. Money raised will help fund the society’s support services and education programs, as well as aid national research efforts. The society operates entirely on donations.
To register as an individual or team, or to sponsor a walker, visit superwalkbc.kintera.org. For more information on the White Rock walk, contact Campbell-Holroyd at 604-317-9599.