Conference Nirvana and The Real World!

In 2003, I attended my first Young-Onset Conference in Atlanta where I met some great people and made lifelong friends. In 2004, I was asked to join the planning committee right after the Minneapolis meeting. In 2005, I would help organize and arrange conferences each in a chosen city until 2008: Phoenix, Reston, Chicago, and Atlanta.  Attendance was strong, and the Conferences brought in people from all over the world. The Conference for many of us turned into a large family get together.

The events were not only planned by the committee, but each member would present at the Conference as well. We were encouraged to live by example and to motivate the crowd. Our dynamic group of people with Parkinson’s covered an array of topics of how to live well with the disease.

When you bring hundreds of people together with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in one place, everything Parkinson’s seems normal and the world outside our hotel seemed odd. A peace came over us, where explaining ourselves to why we were doing what we were doing wasn’t necessary. Parkinson’s was the normal for this closed and safe environment and we all understood one another. A symptom of the illness or a drug side effect needed no explanation, but if it did it wasn’t drudgery to relate.  An overwhelming feeling of belonging and being part of something that was changing people’s lives provided us an amazing opportunity. When the final day of the event came around, parting was hard for us all.

The medical information was helpful, but the living knowledge provided to us was empowering. What really made the difference in most of our lives was the freedom that we felt inside those walls and the relationships that we would take away. It takes a special event to recall so many joyous encounters around what could have been a maudlin event—but it was not.

The unity of these participants was unlike any other that I had ever seen. The newly diagnosed were being encouraged by those who had a little more experience with the illness. For many of the attendees this was there first conference devoted to Parkinson’s as well as the first time meeting another person with the disease. This was an important moment for thousands of people with Parkinson’s disease.

This was an event sponsored by a large foundation, organized largely by a committee of 7 or 8 Parkinson’s patients, which focused on educating, empowering, and enriching those diagnosed with PD. Most of the lectures were from those living with the disease and not those attempting to treat this disease. Who better to advise on how to live with an illness than those living with the experience?

There is a place for medical conferences where the program is filled with medical expertise and experts related to the illness of choice. Far too often, I see conferences about living well or living better, but the conference organizers neglect to include the ones who are living with the condition. The ones who are living well with the disease are the experts, in my opinion.

A doctor can tell you about research, medications, studies, and possible medical procedures, but they can’t tell you what it is to live inside our bodies. They can speculate and imagine, but it just isn’t the same. A conference for people with a specific illness, like PD, ought to be planned by the ones who understand it the most.

About Karl Robb

Karl Robb has had Parkinson’s disease (PD) for over thirty years. With symptoms since he was seventeen years old, Karl was diagnosed at the age of twenty-three. Now fifty-one, he is a Parkinson’s disease advocate, an entrepreneur, an inventor, an author of two books (A Soft Voice in a Noisy World: A Guide to Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s Disease and Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s Disease and Other Health Conditions: A Workbook for Body, Mind, and Spirit) with his wife and care partner, Angela Robb. He has blogged for ten years on his website, ASoftVoice.com. He is a Community Team Member to ParkinsonsDisease.net and is a contributor to PatientsLikeMe.com. His blog, ASoftVoice.com, has been recognized four years in a row by Healthline.com as one of The Best Parkinson’s Blogs of 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015! Healthline.com also listed the book A Soft Voice in a Noisy World in their list of Best Parkinson’s Disease Books of 2017! FeedSpot.com has recognized ASoftVoice.com for 2018 and 2017 as a Top 50 Parkinson’s Disease blog. Karl was a blogger for the 2016 World Parkinson Congress in Portland, Oregon. He is a frequent speaker on Parkinson’s disease issues as well as an experienced advocate for Parkinson’s issues throughout the United States. He is also an advisor and consultant on Parkinson’s disease. Karl is a board member of both the Parkinson Voice Project and Parkinson Social Network based in Virginia. He was an active board member (6 years) and an advocate (18 years) with the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN). In his free time, he is a photographer, constant writer, longtime magician, and a practicing Reiki Jin Kei Do master. Karl received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been featured by The New York Post, BBC Radio, CBS News, National Public Broadcasting (NPR), in The New Republic magazine and NHK World Television, as well as several Washington, D.C., television stations. You may reach Karl via email at asoftvoice@gmail.com, on Facebook, or contact him via Twitter @asoftvoicepd. I’m available for speaking engagements to share my experience living with Parkinson’s disease. Please contact me at asoftvoice@gmail.com if you are interested in having me speak to your group, conference/symposium, or would like me to write an article for your newsletter or blog. I am not a medical professional and this information is my personal view. I am just sharing my medical journey with you, the reader. I encourage you to seek all avenues that can benefit your condition.

Posted on February 26, 2019, in A Soft Voice book, Conferences & Symposiums, Dealing and Healing Workbook, Education, Education & Support, Health, living well, Media & Trends, Parkinson's Disease, Philosophy, self care, Wellness and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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