Swimming to Fight Parkinson’s

Susan Kauffman of Lake Forest is a child of the water. She started swimming at 5, competed on the varsity team through high school and earned a swimming scholarship to Villanova. Now she coaches a children’s swim team and teaches swimming.

So, it’s no wonder that when the mother of three decided to raise money for research on Parkinson’s, the disease she was diagnosed with three years ago, she decided to do it at the pool.

Kauffman is hosting “Kickin’ Parkinson’s, One Lap at A Time” at the Midtown Athletic Club in Bannockburn on Saturday, June 27. Partnering with Team Fox, The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s fundraising arm, Kauffman and the club hope to raise money for the foundation as well as awareness.

Fighting Back

“It’s my time to fight back,” she says. “And swimming is the best way I know how to do that.”

Parkinson’s is a chronic degenerative neurological disorder characterized by symptoms that typically progress from mild tremors to complete physical incapacitation. There is no known cure. Treatments simply mask the symptoms as the disease progresses.

For Kauffman, the Fox Foundation is important not only because it support Parkinson’s research but also because Fox’s book inspired her.

“After reading ‘Lucky Man’ [Hyperion, 2002], I began to hope again,” Kauffman says. “I finally felt that there was someone else out there with young onset Parkinson’s that is living his life with the disease.”

Why Me?

Just before a girl’s trip in February of 2005, Kauffman noticed a tremor in her right hand. A year later, at age 39, she received the diagnosis.

“My reaction was: ‘Why me?’ I remember thinking, I’ve always been the good girl, and I’m the one everyone comes to in a crisis, not the one who has the crisis.” After the initial shock, she went on with her life. “I was in denial,” she says.

Then Kauffman read “Lucky Man.” The book inspired her to reach out to her siblings and admit she couldn’t go through this on her own.

A Time To Give

“[After reading ‘Lucky Man’], I decided to make Parkinson’s a part of my everyday life, to embrace it, talk about it, truly live with it,” she says. “The hopelessness faded; I discovered a new kind of normal.”

Her new normal includes strength training, discussing Parkinson’s with her husband and children and helping find the cure to this disease.

Kickin’ Parkinson’s One Lap At A Time will be held on Saturday, June 27, from 7 a.m. until 12 p.m. at Midtown Athletic Club in Bannockburn. For more information, to register, to volunteer or to donate, call 847-945-1818 ext. 633.

For more information about Parkinson’s Disease and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, go to .michaeljfox.org and teamfox.org.