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Participant Information

Cyndy Gilbertson


Creativity definitely has a therapeutic value in my life. It manifests deep in my psyche, as a driving energy, an insistent call to produce art as writing, poetry, and graphic designs.

The process begins with confusion, thought, inquiry, pondering murky blends of irreverent concepts and a devil may care step into unknown territories.

It is difficult to play the role of a human being facing a degenerative neurological condition such as Parkinson's. My creativity provides a means to wade through reflective waters to attain a posture of hope where few dreams flourish.

As a Social Worker who provided counseling to adolescents in Brooklyn's Coney Island Community for many years, I understand the importance of the need for hope in one's life.

Diagnosed at age 41 with Parkinson's disease, I scoured every cranny of my brain for ways to increase my chances to survive until the anticipated "10 year cure" should arrive.

That was in April of 1988, and we are still anxiously awaiting a "cure." The film "Awakenings" jolted me to recognize the serious nature of my predicament and to make a stronger commitment to explore and utilize all resources to help myself.

My friend Fred Zeiss, now deceased, was a major source of information, daily informing fellow patients about "current" research from scientific journals and professional publications.

I was one of the lucky recipients of Fred's updates. Simultaneously, I was studying Chinese medicine two nights per week for three hours per night with a brilliant young teacher, Jeffrey Yuen and consulting a nutritionist who recommended use of a water filter and a consultation with a medical specialist in intestinal parasites.

Are the waters murky yet? This combination of Fred's mainstream scientific information and my experiences with tui na, Chinese herbs, nutritional supplements, etc. became the fertile ground for the birth of hope in unlikely circumstances.

My personal explorations in complementary medicine took root within the parameters of hard reality outlined by scientific research. The result was and remains a strong belief that I can stay the course and live to see a cure for Parkinson's.

I wanted to share this hope with others, but I had difficulty explaining my unorthodox approach. The answer came during a storytelling workshop where I conceived of telling my story from the point of view of a cell in the brain named Cecily. Thus the birth of Cecily the Cell, A Fable About Parkinson's Disease.

The fable is presented in a cartoon format - itself an exercise in the creative process - seeking to blend information and fantasy in an accessible style.

The cartoonist, Rich Grebanier, had a grandfather with Parkinson's and is like a nephew to me. Most importantly, I had fun throughout this effort and continue to do so! La Lucha Continua!

And now, may I introduce Cecily...