Faces of Parkinson's - A Young Diagnosis

Meet Tonya Walker. She is a vibrant blogger, Team Fox fundraiser and mother to her son, Chase and wife of Chad. She enjoys spending family time riding bikes, boxing, and watching movies.

Tonya previously worked at a law firm in Jacksonville where she met her husband Chad. The two were friends for several years and one day realized they had a connection deeper than friendship. In December 2005 the two were married in Savannah, Georgia at a lovely bed and breakfast. Just two months after the two tied the knot Tonya became sick with a virus. It was after that illness when Tonya realized something felt different.

Shortly thereafter she noticed her left arm stopped swinging when she walked. After a visit to the doctor they did an initial diagnosis and thought it was Multiple Sclerosis, but her doctor referred me to a neurologist for further evaluation. Once Tonya went to the Neurologist they were able to rule out Multiple Sclerosis. He then thought she had Parkinsonism. Since Tonya and her husband were newlyweds and wanted to have children he decided not to put her on any medications due to unknown reactions of women during pregnancy.

A few months later and Tonya became pregnant in October of 2006. Unfortunately, the pregnancy was tough and her Parkinson’s symptoms were exacerbated by the changes of her body. By the end of her pregnancy Tonya struggled with dressing herself. Thankfully, in June of 2007 Tonya and Chad become parents to a healthy baby boy.

After her son was born Tonya showed little signs of improving her mobility. She saw a Movement Disorder Specialist at the Mayo Clinic and within 10 minutes was officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This news came to little surprise to her since she had been researching her symptoms online.

In the beginning it felt surreal and she became in denial of the diagnosis. After all she was only 34 years old and part of a smaller population who struggle with these complications. The news settled in and Tonya decided she wanted to be active in the Parkinson community and wanted to give back any way she could. Years later Tonya had the pleasure of meeting Anissa Mitchell, Parkinson’s Outreach Program Manager at Florida Hospital who reached out to her when she read her fashion blog. From there Anissa invited her to attend a support group meeting where Tonya was able to connect with another young woman who was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

In addition to the support group, Tonya hosted, along with her husband, Team Fox fundraisers to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.  They created The Art of Fashion as a fundraiser in 2015. The idea was to merge her love for fashion and her desire to raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease. The first year went well in their efforts to raise money so they decided to do it again in 2016. This past year she raised nearly $7,000 and had 200 attendees.

Tonya attributes her motivation and drive to her loving family and her strong faith in God. Their constant support inspire her to get up every day and fight the symptoms of Parkinson’s. With the support from others in the community, Tonya has had helped accept her disease and found her inner peace.

Want to connect with Tonya? Visit her blog site!

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