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The Cindy Acree Hope Awards Celebration

This event honors physician-nominated patients who exemplify success over neurological conditions while providing courage, inspiration and hope to others through their ability to communicate their story, adapt to their neurological condition or improve patient support services.

This year the Colorado Neurological Institute is honoring five courageous individuals with the Hope Award. Among them a Parkinson’s disease patient who works tirelessly on behalf of PD patients and families, founding and leading support groups. This 2011 Hope Award recipient is the much deserving and ever-inspiring Diane Cook.

When Diane Cook was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in August 2008, she did what came most naturally to her: she took action. In the first year alone, she read more than 20 books on the disease, spent countless hours researching information, consulted with specialists and ultimately connected with an organization and team that was as passionate about making a difference for patients with Parkinson’s as she was: The CNI Movement Disorders Center.

“Jumping in actively was my way of coping with the diagnosis,” she explains. “I wanted to identify what I could do to slow the progression of the disease in order to stay as healthy and active as possible for myself and my family.”

Just a year after her diagnosis, Diane was one of only 40 patients nationwide selected to participate in the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s Clinical Research Learning Institute, which prepares patients to help build PD awareness and encourage involvement in research in their own communities. Motivated by what she learned and inspired by the people she met, Diane returned home with a clear determination to “make a difference.” 

“The more I learned and discovered how much there was to be done, I began to realize that Parkinson’s had found me,” she says.

With the help of both Dr. Rajeev Kumar, Medical Director of the CNI Movement Disorders Center, and the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies, Diane and a fellow patient co-founded the Parkinson’s Support Group for the Recently Diagnosed in early 2010. Established to help patients “take charge of their Parkinson’s with optimism, energy and action,” the support group was an immediate success, and a second group was soon added to involve even more patients.

Given the success of the support group, Diane co-authored and submitted an abstract to the Second World Parkinson’s Congress in the hopes that the model could be replicated elsewhere. In 2010, she and her co-author were invited to present the abstract at the Congress, held in Glasgow, Scotland. The opportunity allowed her to exchange information with physicians, scientists, patients and caregivers from around the world.

Following the event, Diane and her support group co-founder launched a dedicated blog to expand the conversation of topics discussed in the support groups. Currently, the blog receives 700 visitors per month from more than 20 different countries.

Diane’s experience at the Congress also sparked her most recent initiative, which involves incorporating skills of self-efficacy into the support group’s curriculum. She is working with Dr. Kumar and Dr. Cynthia McRae from the University of Denver to develop a model training program specifically geared toward Parkinson’s disease patients within a support group environment. She also spoke about this unique and promising approach at a recent CNI symposium.

“I think self-efficacy is one of the most powerful ideas I’ve come across for patients living with PD,” she says. “Once the model is developed, I’d like to make it available to as many communities as possible.”

Since her diagnosis, Diane has also participated in six clinical trials and helped involve about 60 people in Parkinson’s-related research. Additionally, Diane has mobilized an effort to bring Dance for PD to Denver, which the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies will sponsor. Her family is also taking action to help. In 2009, her children, Christian and Lauren, established ProjectSpark Foundation to raise funds for research, support services, education and assistance to help PD patients and their families. And her husband, Gary, continues to provide unwavering support and strength throughout Diane’s journey.

With no signs of letting up, Diane continues to work with Dr. Kumar and his team to slow the progression of the disease, combining medication with an active and varied exercise program. “CNI is an integral part of my journey,” she explains. “The whole team is incredible.”  

Her message to other patients is simple: “Stay positive, be involved, exercise, take advantage of the gift of the present, and experience the rewards when you contribute to research or help others with PD.”

Note from PDF:

Diane Cook, mentioned in the new story above, is one of PDF's research advocates, working through the PAIR (Parkinson's Advocates in Research) program. PAIR is a network of more than 100 research advocates living with Parkinson's from 36 states who work to bring educated consumer voices to important issues in Parkinson’s therapy development. PDF congratulates Diane on her award.

Would you like to PAIR up for Parkinson's research?

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Source Date: May 06 2011
Source Publication: Colorado Neurogical Institute
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