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Participant Information

Judy Frantz


The Shakes Set Me Free

Art has been my saving grace. It has given me focus and a purpose.

My first symptom of PD was shrinking handwriting. I thought it was stress from my new job as a Director of Nursing Services. I had to clean up a long-term care facility after a disastrous state inspection. I thought the handwriting problem would dissipate once this crisis ended, but it did not improve. Worse, I had developed another symptom, right hand tremor. After a battery of tests I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Parkinson's disease at the ripe old age of forty-four.

Being a Registered Geriatric Nurse I knew what I was in for. Still, my immediate response to the diagnosis was to learn even more about PD. I read everything I could find, printed reams of Internet pages, and haunted PD chat rooms.

Then I went into denial and, combined with other stresses in my life, a melt down. I withdrew from social gatherings including family, was not sleeping well, and felt like life had no purpose.

I took art therapy in the hope it would help me recover. I wasn't sure what to expect; I hadn't taken any art classes since high school.

We could draw anything using a wide selection of mediums. I was immediately drawn to pastels. I loved the different pigments, the choice of colors, and the overall look and feel of the pastels. I don't remember what I drew but I do remember feeling like I had no limitations in moving my right hand across the paper to blend the colors.

Limited right hand movement has been my bane. Soon after my diagnosis a group of us were asked in a workshop to write whatever comes to mind. This is what I wrote: "What do I write about; music, relaxation, or the difficulty of moving pen across paper. While everyone else has filled up their paper I am still struggling just to write this with a dysfunctional hand."

When I am working on an art project I do not notice my right hand movement limitations. Art has become therapeutic for me. Through art I felt a renewed interest in my life. Pastels are still my favorite medium but I have expanded into mosaics, beaded boxes and handbags. Over the past few years I have dedicated myself to my art and have produced a large volume of work.

Art has changed the way I look at the world around me. I have become a more visual person; more in tune with shapes and colors. PD was the impetus for that change. I no longer see myself as someone with limitations from PD. I now see myself as an artist.