Yvon Trépanier is a retired schoolteacher specializing in French, Spanish and Japanese languages. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2002, at the age of 47 and is one of the three Canadian Ambassadors out of a total group of 12 attending World Parkinson Congress 2013.
Why did you agree to become a WPC 2013 Ambassador?
I jumped at this opportunity to be on the front lines of the global Parkinson’s community because I believe very strongly that we have a responsibility to support each other.
What are you working on?
Spreading the word. For the past 18 months, I’ve been involved with others in putting up posters and pamphlets advertising the Congress at various events and workshops. We have also been working with travel agencies to develop one-stop hotel and travel packages that will make it easier for people to plan their attendance. Now that registration is open and the program has been finalized, I’m urging as many people as possible to come to Montreal in October.
What reasons do you give for attending WPC 2013?
It’s an excellent way to show solidarity with people with Parkinson’s from all over the world. Just making the decision to attend is in itself empowering. I remember when I attended my first WPC, I wanted to meet people like me and see how they deal with Parkinson’s. It was an enlightening experience.
Congress also showcases the talents of people with Parkinson’s. In previous years, there has been an art exhibition; this year, there’s a video contest. It is a wonderful reminder that people with Parkinson’s are living full lives.
Then there is the fact that the conference is open to everyone connected to the Parkinson’s community. Researchers can sometimes work for years without ever rubbing shoulders with a person with Parkinson’s. Congress remedies that. There are sessions geared to people with Parkinson’s, family members, scientists, neurologists, social workers and other groups and, of course, there are many social and networking opportunities.
On a more personal note, I’m looking forward to finally meeting the 11 other WPC Ambassadors at the conference. Until now, we have linked by telephone. It will be fun to see each other in person.
Has anything surprised you during your Ambassadorship?
It has been interesting to discover that Canada is at the forefront of movements that support the Parkinson’s community. There are some countries where Parkinson’s doesn’t receive much attention, but events like WPC 2013 can help people realize that they are not alone, that they have support and that it is possible to take action. It has been exciting to work with people from around the world, share with them what we are doing and, I hope, inspire them to do something as well.