Sacha Whitehead – My Parkinson’s Journey
Monday, 5th March 2012

My name is Sacha and when I was 29 I had my fourth child. A beautiful baby girl! We didn’t know then what we obviously know now but my life was changing physically and mentally. I started to suffer from severe sleep episodes where I would feel like I was being attacked, suffering bouts of insomnia in between. This was the beginning of our journey to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.

When I started to develop a twitch in my right hand some time after, my GP asked me ‘Do you have Parkinson’s Disease in the family?’ I was 30 at this stage. It was a bit frightening hearing him say that and I knew of no Parkinson’s Disease in the family. He sent me to the first neurologist who immediately knew something was amiss. Things didn’t add up to it being Essential Tremor, however, he said it was either PD or ET and sent me off telling me time would tell.

I then moved 6 hours away from Sydney, inland, and saw the next neurologist after my new GP confidently said I had Parkinson’s Disease. I now had a significant tremor on my right side with some minor slowing, some occasional freezing and some very minor speech and balance problems. Being now 31, the neurologist was reluctant to diagnose me and said it was possibly stress related. I thought this was great but deep down I still feared something was wrong. I accepted this as stress and started to deny my symptoms existed. It was all very trying on me.

The neurologist went ahead and made appointments for me to see Dr. Victor Fung at Westmead Hospital. A very well known neurologist. I cancelled the first appointment then followed through on the next appointment 6 months later. It was then I was told I had ‘Parkinsonism’ at the age of 32. I admit my head was spinning and I initially denied it even more. This was in June 2011.

I had extensive testing done and they could not identify anything out of the ordinary causing the Parkinsonism. I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease and started on Madopar. I have been on Parkinson’s medication now for around 6 months with very positive results.

This has been very hard to comprehend being only 32, but I try everyday to put the worry aside. My beautiful children are 15, 13, 10 and 3 and are certainly the best medicine any person could ask for. They are, for the most part, the reason I will fight and I will not let this beat me! I must say it has been difficult explaining PD to them. I do not think they quite understand yet. This is something we will work through as a family.

I am a mother, daughter, partner, sister, teacher and child of God. My faith in God gives me the strength I need to keep going on those difficult days. My future is as unknown as the next person but I am going to do all I can to fight Parkinson’s Disease. I am looking to raise awareness and be a part of the fundraising needed for critical research. Right now it is day by day, as I comprehend the complete reality of it all.

Many say I am too young to have Parkinson’s Disease. It comes as a shock to people when they find out. Here I am, 32 years young with PD. Not a path I would have chosen but one I need to walk using all the strength I can muster up. It is important people know my story and others because ultimately a cure needs to be found. I am thankful that I have a great partner and mother who support me and encourage me each day.

I am blessed.