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East County Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2019 1 month ago

Parkinson's disease can't rob Lakewood Ranch woman of her good days

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Huge Parkinson's disease expo coming to the Bradenton Area Convention Center.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

If she made a list of tools for fighting Parkinson's disease, Lakewood Ranch's June Schuer wouldn't have put a paint brush and stepladder among them.

Not until 2014, five years after her diagnosis.

Her husband, Stan, had left home to run an errand when June decided to paint a wall of her beautiful Watercrest neighborhood condo.

It was kind of Stan's fault anyway. After houseguests had left, Stan was complaining about some fingerprints that had stained the wall. June, who was dealing with her reduced motor skills, didn't want to hear anymore about it.

She dragged a stepladder into the room, got out a can of paint, and went to work. By the time Stan had returned, the task was finished.

"He was horrified," June said with a laugh. "But he was obsessed with that spot on the wall.

"And I was happy. It helped me to concentrate on something other than Parkinson's."

These days, June's life continues to be about Parkinson's disease, and that's OK. She feels God has blessed her with the ability to enjoy enough "good days" to help others with similar struggles. When it comes to handing out smiles, she can have an effect on everyone. It's not an exclusive club.

June had been making people smile for a lifetime with her love of laughter when Stan noticed in 2009 she had been dragging her foot while walking. He also noticed the slightest of tremors of her hand, something even June hadn't recognized.

They went to see Dr, Dean Sutherland who informed her at Sarasota Memorial Hospital she had Parkinson's. He did it in a way that set a tone for the years to come.

"The first thing he said to her was, 'Don't go nuts with me. You're not going to die from this disease,'" Stan recalled.

Neither June or Stan were so sure, even though June wanted to be strong like Dr. Sutherland when she informed her children of her plight.

"The hardest thing was telling them," she said. "I said, 'Don't freak out on me. I have Parkinson's, and I can deal with it.'"

After finding a support group, though, she began to worry. She saw those suffering from Parkinson's who had extreme symptoms, and she became depressed. She wanted no part of it.

As the months began to pass, though, she had second thoughts. Her own symptoms seemed to be advancing slowly. She remembered her days as a child when her mother told her she was a late bloomer.

Likewise, her Parkinson's was moving slower than she saw in others who had the disease for just a year and were confined to a wheelchair or couldn't speak.

Stan had an explanation. "It is the power of prayer," he said.

Lakewood Ranch's June and Stan Schuer get through Parkinson's with the power of prayer, and one other thing. "Love, it's the only word I can use," Stan said.

June knew he was right. "I said to God, 'I am here for a purpose. If it is to help people, I need to have a good attitude. I need to go to support groups."

June and Stan found the Neuro Challenge Foundation.

"They showed us different paths we could take," Stan said. "I can't say enough for it to be available to anyone at no charge."

June, who is now 79, shares information with others fighting Parkinson's at social events such as the Parkinson's Cafe that is held in Tara.

"On a bad day, I feel like a Yo-Yo," she said. "Up and down, good then bad. It's almost like a depression and I want to lock myself away. But I will not isolate myself. I feel out of sorts, but thank God it passes."

The rewards are good days.

"When I have a good day, I play it to the fullest," she said.

She knows many similar experiences will be shared April 13 when the second Parkinson's Expo — the largest annual Parkinson's event in the U.S. — is held at the Bradenton Convention Center. The event is free and will include those fighting Parkinson's, their caregivers and allied health professionals.

Although Stan, who is 81, winces when he hears his wife of 38 years tell people how she climbed up a ladder to do some painting, she loves to tell those who are struggling with the disease to "go paint a wall."

Most of all, they tell people not to set limits because of the path traveled by others.

"There is no blueprint for the symptoms," Stan said of Parkinson's. "Everyone is unique. When you have a cold, you sneeze. There is no such thing with Parkinson's."

Whether she is unique or just blessed, June is grateful for the wonderful times, such as the four cruises and all the visits from her children, she has enjoyed since her diagnosis, when she feared the worst.

"Am I lucky?" she asked as she gave Stan a pat on the leg. "I could have had ALS. I could have been born in a third-world country starving to death. I'm 79, and I'm still here. I am going to live my life as if I stubbed my toe. After all, I get to make people laugh."

Lakewood Ranch's June Schuer said she feels God has given her strength to share her stories about Parkinson's disease.

 

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