HomeMoorestown NewsLooking at the silver lining

Looking at the silver lining

Moorestown’s Steve Emerson discusses battle with Parkinson’s

Christine Harkinson/The Sun: “I do think there will be a cure someday,” said Moorestown resident Steve Emerson of Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder he was diagnosed with when he was 50.

Since Steve Emerson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 16 years ago, he’s shared his story with people in and out of his shoes.

“If someone has a friend or a relative or a spouse that’s recently diagnosed (with Parkinson’s), many times I’ll get a phone call and they’ll ask if I’ll sit down with them and help them get over those first few hurdles,” Emerson said. 

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“It’s scary when you first get that diagnosis.”

According to the manual Every Victory Counts, Parkinson’s is a progressive, chronic, neurodegenerative disorder associated with damage to and loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells – or neurons – deep in the brain. There is no known cause, cure or prevention.

The disease is classified as a movement disorder because it involves damage to the areas of the brain that affect speed, quality, fluency and ease of movement. Among actions those with Parkinson’s can take to change how they feel are physical activity, dieting, and choosing the best wellness team for their needs.

Emerson, a Moorestown resident, described how working at the township’s rec center continues to be important for his healing process.

“The tendency with Parkinson’s is to isolate or just to sit, because everything’s harder to do,” he explained. “To get up, to get moving, to go for a walk, to go for a bike ride … So working at the rec center – and they’re completely, wholly supportive of me – has been a godsend for me, really.”

People living with Parkinson’s can improve their quality of life through exercise; proper nutrition; connection with family, friends and others with Parkinson’s; and other measures.

Exercise can not only improve one’s physical body, endurance and well-being, it can also delay or reduce side effects of the disease. Emerson wants people living with Parkinson’s to remember they can still live a full, active life.

“A lot of people see it not as a death sentence, but … as an end to their life as they know it, and it’s really not,” he noted. “Parkinson’s is not a terminal illness: You die with Parkinson’s, not from Parkinson’s.”

Emerson is involved with the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s, and annually attends the Parkinson’s Unity Walk hosted by the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

“I have a lot of great memories, but the main one is an overall look at just seeing all those people with the same disease moving in one direction around the course, and just talking with other folks that have the disease is very powerful for me,” he said of the unity walk.

According to parkinsonfoundation.org, since motor symptoms of the disease are caused by decreased dopamine levels in the brain, most medications are aimed at replenishing or mimicking the action of dopamine and can be effective in controlling the disease’s motor symptoms. Other drugs are used to treat the non-motor symptoms. 

“I do think there will be a cure someday,” Emerson said. “There are people that do nothing but research Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders … 

“I’d like to see it tomorrow,” he added. “I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I do think there will be a cure found for this and a lot of diseases.”


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