Noëlla Chicoine – An everyday heroine living with Parkinson’s
As with many people newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Noëlla Chicoine thought she had a rare disease that no one else had and that no one could relate to. With a 28 year career as a preschool teacher Noëlla understood the need to educate herself on Parkinson’s right away. Her research led her to Parkinson Society Quebec (PSQ).
“When I got my diagnosis I thought I was the only one with Parkinson’s. It felt like my soul fell down. I didn’t feel like I was in control of my life anymore. I always lived life at 120 kilometres per hour; after diagnosis I slowed down to 30. After getting medication I sped up to 70 kilometres per hour. I can live well at this pace,” Noëlla insisted.
In no time PSQ connected her to services, educational information and local community fundraising efforts such as Parkinson SuperWalk. Unfortunately, at the time, there was no SuperWalk event in her home town of Ste. Thérèse. Not one to lay down at the first sign of adversity, Noëlla used her experience helping others from her time as manager of a private home care facility to start a new SuperWalk location in her own backyard.
“PSQ told me about SuperWalk. I asked if I could start a new walk in Ste. Thérèse. They said ‘yes’ so I organized the event, enlisting family and friends to walk on the grounds of the school where I used to work. In the first year we had 30 people. Now there are approximately 250 people in our local walk. Last summer we raised almost $15,000.00,” said Noëlla proudly.
After the first two years, organizing and running SuperWalk for her community, things started to snowball for Noëlla. Already redistributing information and handouts from PSQ to people interested in Parkinson’s disease, Noëlla was frequently asked about how people could get together on a regular basis to talk about their personal experiences, exchange ideas and support one another.
Noëlla took it upon herself to once again make a difference.
“I started looking for a meeting place to hold a support group for people with Parkinson’s and caregivers. A private care facility called Maison de vie Sunrise provided a room for us. Some of the residents have Parkinson’s,” Noëlla said.
Over the years the group has grown to about 50 people with Parkinson’s and 30 caregivers in total. Approximately half of the members find the time to attend meetings that occur every other week. They use their time pouring over Parkinson’s related information, discussing daily life, listening to guest speakers and exercising by way of Tai Chi, dance and stretching routines.
These days Noëlla and her team act as a one-stop shop for all things Parkinson’s in Laval - Basse-Laurentides, answering phone inquiries, directing people to engage with PSQ and delivering information as needed. She also encourages people in her support group to participate in research programs.
Noëlla feels it’s her fast-paced way of living, combined with exercise and healthy living, making her capable of so much for the Parkinson’s cause.
“When I first got diagnosed I asked ‘Why me?’ After some time I thought, why not me? I believe I got Parkinson’s because I have the strength to go through it. I forget about my own symptoms when I help others. I try and give others that same strength,” finished Noëlla.
Her advice for others dealing with Parkinson’s is simple.
“You have to make the step forward and join in. Don’t be isolated; get out there and talk about it. The more information you get the easier it will be to learn to live with the disease.”
“Have fun and exercise.”
To find information and resources and to find support near you, visit www.parkinson.ca or call 1-800-565-3000. In Québec, visit Parkinson Society Quebec online at http://www.parkinsonquebec.ca/en/home.htm or call 1 800 720-1307.