Reflections

A farewell message from our CEO, Joyce Gordon who, after 16 years with Parkinson Canada, will retire in April 2020.

 

The years that I have been associated with Parkinson Canada have been some of the most satisfying, challenging, and rewarding experiences of all my careers.

I came to Parkinson Canada full of energy, enthusiasm and with ideas that I hoped would make a difference. I like to think that I never waned during my time in various roles and as a result, we have been a driving force in advocating for change for Canadians living with Parkinson’s.

I have truly enjoyed my time with Parkinson Canada and feel quite honoured to have worked together with such exceptional staff, volunteers and colleagues. We have come a long way and that is a tribute to the many people who gave so much of themselves to make life better for all people living with Parkinson’s.

It has been an honour and great joy to build relationships with many individuals, organizations, businesses, volunteers, and others in our community. It has also been a privilege to work with donors to uncover their passions and interests and fulfill their wishes in a meaningful way. Without the generous support of our donors year after year, our work would not be possible.

Over the years I have learned something valuable from each and every one of you. I owe the greatest sense of gratitude to you all and thank each of you for the immense support and cooperation that you have provided over more than 16 years.

I have been fortunate to have had many opportunities with Parkinson Canada. I have attended all five World Parkinson Congresses and been privileged to lead, and be part of leadership round tables, and the host of one of the World Congresses in Canada in 2013.

A few weeks ago, one of the staff asked me about my three most memorable moments during my time with Parkinson Canada. And the ones that come to mind are those of the bold, brave, and courageous persons living with Parkinson’s … living our values through their experience with Parkinson’s and through their stories—compassionate, trustworthy and collaborative people.

One of my learnings at Parkinson’s is that character can overcome circumstances, which is an extremely valuable lesson for us all.

I would like to share a few memories that will stay with me forever, an inspiration every day to do better, do more. This is about memories of people with Parkinson’s who just because they had Parkinson’s didn’t mean they let it prevent them from living a fulfilling life and from celebrating victories.

  • One of my most unforgettable memories took place in Ottawa in 2006. Senator Michael Pitfield, who was living with advanced Parkinson’s, came to our awards dinner, at which his family received a Caregiving Award from Parkinson Canada. He arrived at the conference room door in a wheel chair and with a lot of effort, got up from the wheel chair and walked into the room to the family table. He was a proud man and did not want people to see him in a wheelchair. A high school band was playing, a family friend asked if he would like to dance and spontaneously, he stood up and floated like a butterfly around the dance floor with her with such joy on his face—so distinguished, so happy. He had lost much facial expression but he just shone with joy. It was truly remarkable and everyone in the room knew what it took for him to do that—there were many tears and we gave him a standing ovation. Unforgettable—I live it all over again every time I tell the story; a great example of the strength of character and why people with Parkinson’s say Parkinson’s does not have me.
  • My next more memorable moment is about a woman, Judi, diagnosed at 27 with Parkinson’s, with much uncontrollable body movement and frequent falls, who decided in her fifties to learn to dance, Judi teamed up with a professional dancer from the National Ballet School and videotaped her dance so that it would inspire others—showing others that everything is possible. Judi also had limited facial expression. As dance is about expression and freedom of movement, this dream for Judi required such discipline and character. With her “No Matter What” attitude, Judi made it happen. We knew what strength of character and body this took for Judi. Those of us who knew Judi wept through the performance and every performance thereafter. Unforgettable—character demonstrated through tenacity.
  • One day in the mail room at our office, I received a letter with very shaky handwriting, addressed to me. When I opened and read it, I was filled with such humility and compassion. There was a looney taped to the short note written in shaky handwriting saying,” This is all I have to give—I barely have enough for food but please find a cure soon. Hope this helps a little. Thank you for the work you do.” Every donation counts no matter what the amount and this letter is another example of character through generosity, compassion for others, and gratitude.

I am positive and hopeful about the future. I am passionate about our cause and have advocated intensely on behalf of it. I believe we will find a cure and that Parkinson Canada is making the lives of those living with Parkinson’s better.

Parkinson Canada is in good hands. I am grateful that we have a strong, skilled, talented, and dedicated Board of Directors. Together we have learned that people who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling on the strength of one another. Working as a unified, cohesive and collaborative organization we have learned that we are stronger together with those who are heading in the same direction and this will result in positive outcomes for all Canadians living with Parkinson’s.

Of all the achievements at Parkinson Canada, these are a few of which I am most proud.

  • In 2006, the Board supported an investment of $20K to determine the feasibility of an epidemiology study for Parkinson’s. This small investment ultimately resulted in a $15 million national population health study that benefited Parkinson’s and 14 other neurological health diseases. Parkinson Canada was the lead organization working with the Public Health Agency through a coalition facilitated by Parkinson Canada, Neurological Health Charities Canada.

This was an enormous undertaking but Parkinson Canada’s profile and reputation were significantly enhanced through our leadership. Parkinson Canada and the other health conditions have used the data in this report to make their cases for support. Parkinson Canada is also embedded in the national annual surveillance survey, only one of four neurological diseases, which gathers health data from provinces and territories.

  • In 2007, Parkinson Canada was an early adopter and promoter of the Canadian Genetic Fairness Coalition, to eliminate genetic discrimination, which now has a law in place to protect Canadians.
  • We were also early adopters of Medical Assistance in Dying with a forward-looking position statement developed by the Parkinson community.

To increase the knowledge and understanding of Parkinson’s among healthcare professionals, Parkinson Canada developed the first and second editions of Canadian Guideline for Parkinson Disease. These Guidelines provide recommendations for the healthcare community on optimal diagnosis, management and treatment of Parkinson’s.

Finally, the development of the Canadian Open Parkinson Network, an idea recommended by Canadian neurologists. Thanks to a $1M investment by Parkinson Canada which was matched by another organization, Brain Canada, Parkinson Canada coordinated and supported the founding meetings with centres across Canada. C-OPN will officially launch in 2020.

I am extremely proud of our staff and volunteers. We have shared many work and life experiences. They will last a lifetime. Thank you.

I want to thank the many volunteers who have given the many hours of commitment to serve on boards, to participate in committees, to advocate for a better life today and brighter future tomorrow for people living with Parkinson’s. Thank you for sharing your expertise to ensure that we put people with Parkinson’s first in all we do and that we maintain the strong connections that help us succeed in our efforts to do so.

We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to support one another. Each of us is a vital thread in another person’s tapestry.

Which brings me to family. I want to thank my family, my husband Don and my three sons, Andrew, Phil and Mark for their support and love—and to the Gordon Clan. Parkinson’s is personal for us, as several family members have Parkinson’s disease.

Embarking on this new chapter of life is exciting. Retirement isn’t the end; it’s just a new beginning. I know that no matter how much I enjoy being retired, I will truly miss all of you.

I am looking forward to my new life of leisure, having the time and freedom to pursue my interests. I have lots of plans and will get down to some serious gardening, travelling, hanging out with family and friends, and quality time at the cottage.

With optimism and confidence, I am leaving a very talented staff that will thrive and grow as Parkinson Canada takes the next big leap forward with exciting new leadership that will guide the organization into a brighter future that is closer than ever to bringing an end to Parkinson’s.

I was privileged to be part of a team which achieved success that we can all be proud of. I believe that Parkinson Canada will continue to grow and prosper and I wish each of you happiness and fulfilment in your life.

Keep up the good work.

Joyce

May the sun shine bright on your window pane.

May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain.

May the hand of a friend always be near you.

And may your heart be filled with gladness to cheer you.

Old Irish Blessing, author unknown.

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