SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – It has been 27 years since Ruth Drown, a long-time Scotch Plains resident and mother of three, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive neurological disorder that affects approximately one million Americans. However, that hasn’t stopped her from living life to the fullest and she vows to continue fighting it while making an impact one day at a time.
Drown, who was only 36-years-old at the time, received her diagnosis just one year after giving birth to her youngest daughter, Megan. The news was overwhelming at first, even though the symptoms were very subtle.
“I was in denial because Parkinson’s, to me, was an old people disease,” said Drown, whose family and friends noticed the symptoms long before she realized something was wrong. “It took me a long time to resolve that I had it because after I started taking the medication prescribed to me, I felt cured.”
Upon accepting that she had a disease in which an estimated 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with annually, she addressed it as a challenge to overcome. Her children, and now grandchildren are the driving force behind her motivation to keep pushing forward.
“I never let Parkinson’s stop me from doing what I wanted to do and needed to do,” Drown emphasized. “I’ve been a fighter the whole time. I try to set a good example for my children by keep pushing forward no matter challenges lay ahead of me.”
In fact, Drown landed a job as an ESL instructor at Union County College’s Cranford campus six years after her diagnosis, a position that she has held for more than two decades and still holds. She calls it a “very rewarding” job and loves seeing her students learn and develop so that they can continue their academic success.
On Saturday, April 22, Drown will by joined by family and friends as they participate in their 10th annual Parkinson’s Unity Walk in Central Park while raising money and awareness for the disease. To date, the group has raised over $80,000 and has already collectively reached their fundraising goal this year of $15,000, but they are determined to continue making a difference.
“Doing this walk every year makes my life so much more manageable if I feel like I’m doing something impactful to benefit a good cause,” said Drown, adding that 100 percent of the proceeds goes towards Parkinson’s research. “It was such an eye-opener for me to be around other people living with Parkinson’s the first time I participated.”
Donations to the cause can be made through the team’s official website.
Additionally, Drown released her first 122-page novel in October 2016 called “My Happy Feet,” which originally started as a personal memoir through journal entries that she began recording years ago to document the progression of the disease.
“I hope my story offers hope to those who have been recently diagnosed with Parkinson's,” explained Drown. “I want people to know that there is life beyond this diagnosis.”
Now she is becoming an even stronger advocate for fighting Parkinson’s and has been featured as a guest speaker, most recently at JFK Medical Center in Piscataway, NJ. Drown is working on publishing two more books as she continues to raise awareness and hopes that there will one day be a better prognosis for those living with Parkinson’s.