Educating the Educated About Parkinson’s Disease


Sherri Journeying Through

I went to the dermatologist yesterday for a skin check. Those of us who have Parkinson’s disease (PD) should make a habit of getting a yearly check because our condition increases the odds of getting skin cancer. The Mayo Clinic reported that patients with Parkinson’s “were roughly four times likelier to have had a history of melanoma than those without Parkinson’s, and people with melanoma had a fourfold higher risk of developing Parkinson’s. …”

So, I had an appointment with the dermatologist.

After a thorough body check and five biopsies, I was free to leave. The nurse stayed back with me after the doctor left because I struggled to move. She asked when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. After I answered “2004,” she replied, “Isn’t that young for Parkinson’s?” Not as young as when the symptoms began 10 years before that, I wanted to answer. 

She followed that question with another: “Did it run in my family?”


“Not even one relative?”


“Are you sure?”


While I dressed and walked out to where my husband waited in the car, I shook terribly. That’s something I hadn’t done in quite a while. I was sure it was the combination of numbing five different areas with an intrusive needle and the anxious feeling that came over me with the news that spots could be cancerous. However, what caught me almost more off guard was the nurse’s questioning. 

I guess what surprised me is how uninformed so many still are.

I have spoken to groups about my 20-year journey with Parkinson’s disease. I write about it on my blog. I am open about it with others. I have written articles for several different publications. I am a PD advocate. I know a lot about the disease. I just figure others do, too. What surprised me most about her questions was that she worked for a dermatologist who should be very familiar with PD since the disease can highly affect the skin.

As patients, our job is far from finished.

As long as we live with PD, we are responsible for getting information about this disease out to everyone we can, as best we can. Not just to newbies in the patient club, but also those in the medical fields. Perhaps the patients and caregivers should hold a conference for medical professionals instead of the opposite. After all, we are living PD day to day, feeling it moment by moment. As my movement disability specialist once told me, “You patients are the experts. The doctors take their cue from you.”

If that is true then we need to be proactive with the hand we’re dealt. We must educate those around us, whether they’re a patient, nurse, caregiver, doctor, dental hygienist, or medical transporter. It’s going to take a whole lot more than answering the question of whether Parkinson’s disease is hereditary — it was obvious to me the nurse wasn’t buying my answers.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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