ET Has Affected 5 Generations in My Family

By Shari Finsilver,
VP of the IETF Board of Directors

Increasing awareness about essential tremor (ET) has been my passion for almost 20 years.  But, I must confess … I was not very open about my tremors prior to this. In fact, I did everything imaginable to hide them, even from my parents!

My courage came from all the members of my support group. It is often said that when we volunteer, we get much more back than we give. Well, that was so true in my case when I decided to start a support group in Michigan in 2000. I marveled at the candor, courage, and self-pride in many of those members and, eventually, decided to follow their lead to become more open about my own ET.

Joining the IETF Board
When I was invited to join the IETF Board of Directors in 2001, I found another platform that I could use to further raise awareness, while also getting involved in education programs, fundraising, and research. I am committed to expanding the work of the IETF, the most recognized organization helping ET patients and families.

ET began challenging my life at 11 years old. I’ve heard it said that those of us with ET are much more intelligent and creative. Well, I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that … but I did become very creative in developing ways to cope with these troubling tremors! When the IETF compiled a list of coping tips, I was able to share all of mine with all of you.

The Choice to Have DBS Surgery
After having lived with increasingly challenging ET for almost 40 years, I decided to have deep-brain stimulation (DBS) surgery in 1999. DBS changed my life.

ET has, so far as I know, affected five generations in my family. I will continue to do everything in my power to help those of us with ET get more effective medical treatments, increase awareness so the public doesn’t misjudge and label us, better educate the medical community, and fund research that will discover a cure.

Join Us to Help Raise ET Awareness
I hope I can count on each of you to do something that helps the ET community. So many great ideas are listed on the IETF website. If all of us raise our voices about ET, we can educate the world.



Being a Child with ET is Like Being a Tiny Sapling in a Windstorm

By Allison Dyke,
Student at Kuyper College

Allison Dyke

Having essential tremor is like being a tree with leaves shaking uncontrollably in the wind. Even though your roots are strong, you are unable to control the movement of your branches.
However, being a child with essential tremor is like being a tiny sapling stuck in a powerful windstorm. You are not fully developed and your roots have not been completely planted.

ET Diagnosis
Since the age of four, I have battled with essential tremor. My shaky hands and legs made tasks such as eating, tying shoes, and riding bikes difficult to complete. I was just learning how to do these activities, which can be challenging without having a movement disorder. While these tasks were strenuous, the hardest part about being a child with essential tremor was other children and adults jumped to conclusions without understanding what essential tremor is.

“She’s just stubborn,” was often coldly stated to my parents as an explanation of why I was failing at making a perfect bow with my shoelaces. If I wasn’t being “stubborn” I must be either nervous or cold. Fine motor skills were frustrating to master and I became withdrawn from participating in physical activities. It was hard to understand why I couldn’t do what other children my age could do. With supportive parents, I was encouraged to never give up. The saying at my house is, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Soon I found an activity where shaking didn’t matter, swimming. It helped rebuild the confidence that this disorder had taken away. I found ways around difficult tasks, such as using assistive devices to improve my penmanship or supporting my elbow when applying makeup. It was clear that the physical and emotional effects of essential tremor were not going to dictate my future.

Connecting with the IETF
Then at sixteen, I discovered the International Essential Tremor Foundation, and wish I would have found them sooner. Their website provided informational downloads that I gave to my teachers and school administrators, so they could better understand this disorder. I connected with other kids my age who were going through the same experiences. IETF encouraged me to reach out to my community by organizing awareness walks and starting a support group. And they provided me with a college scholarship. With their support, I have met wonderful people who understand what having tremors is all about and I know I am not alone.

Now I’m nineteen and people still ask if I’m cold or nervous. But, I’ve learned that sharing my experience and educating others about essential tremor gives me an opportunity to explain that this condition is not just for older adults, but impacts young people as well. An estimated 10 million people in the United States are affected by this condition, yet very few have heard of it or understand it’s impact. Through awareness, I’m no longer a tiny sapling; I am strong oak supported by a dense forest away from the wind.

Editor’s Note
Allison is one of thousands of children and young adults around the world who struggle to live normal lives with essential tremor. She is a former IETF Scholarship Recipient. The scholarship program is one of many support programs conducted by the IETF. Your donations help support these programs and people with essential tremor. Donate today. 

No Boundaries, No Favorites. Essential Tremor Has No Familiar Face.

By Tammy Dodderidge, IETF Marketing and Communications Manager

Who do you picture in your mind when you think about someone who has essential tremor? Chances are, it’s a senior adult or a grandparent. The reality is essential tremor has no familiar face. It afflicts people all ages and races. While senior adults struggle with it, so do middle-aged adults, teens and even toddlers. It doesn’t discriminate based on the color of your hair, or eyes or skin.

This is our message during National Essential Tremor Awareness (NETA) Month in March. We want people to understand that ET has no boundaries. It doesn’t play favorites. It is a serious, debilitating condition for more than 10 million people around the world.

Background on NETA Month
Thanks to a three-year effort by the International Essential Tremor Foundation (IETF), in 2010 Congress passed a House resolution that officially designates March as National Essential Tremor Awareness Month. This month gives ET a platform. Most people have heard of Parkinson’s disease and the physical tremors associated with it, but not many have heard of essential tremor. We need to let them know it exists and then educate them about the needs of people with ET.

The next time you are in a crowd, look around and chances are, someone there has ET. You won’t know it because it’s something that people work hard to hide. You won’t know it because people are embarrassed by it. You won’t know it because people fight it and deny it. You won’t know it because many people who have ET suffer depression and isolate themselves so they don’t even leave their houses.

Take Action
What can you do to take part in NETA Month? Many, many things!

  • The IETF has created some special NETA Month social media banners specifically for Facebook and Twitter. Download them from our website and use them on your social media sites during the month of March (as the cover art or just share them with your friends and followers).
  • Order one of our NETA Month posters and hang it in a prominent area where people will notice it: your church, the grocery store, the library, your office. When someone asks, “What’s this poster? What is essential tremor?” you will have done your job in raising awareness!
  • Watch this Tremor Talk blog site during March. We will be featuring some guest writers who have ET, work in the ET community and advocate for people with ET. Their first-hand stories promise to be insightful and educational – and heartfelt. Share these blogs on your social media sites, or send the links to your friends by email. RAISE AWARENESS!
  • Hold a Do It Yourself (DIY) Fundraiser to support the work the IETF does toward education, research and advocacy. We have a list of DIY fund raising ideas on our website, and we also have special DIY  fund raising posters you can order from us for free to advertise your events.
  • Watch your mail for a letter from the IETF and make a donation to receive an NETA Month t-shirt and/or tote bag. These items are one more way to get ET in the public eye. Wear your shirt proudly and use your tote when shopping, or for carrying items to and from work. If you are not on our mailing list, you can join our mailing list online.

Once we all begin to see ET as a condition that impacts millions of people all over the world, we will begin to realize the need for more research that will lead to new treatments, and hopefully someday, a way to prevent or cure it for everyone.

Speak up, speak out and let’s rock this year’s NETA Month!


New Year, New Opportunities

Patrick McCartney
Executive Director

As we kick off 2018, we are excited about the New Year and the opportunities to promote our mission to provide hope to the essential tremor (ET) community worldwide through awareness, education, support, and research.

The IETF is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018. We will kick off the celebration in March, which also happens to be National Essential Tremor Awareness month. There are a variety of ways for you to advocate for more ET awareness and education in your community. To learn more about how you can get involved here.

When we ask ET patients what they would like to see the IETF focus its efforts on, one subject comes up consistently: research to help find a dedicated treatment(s) for ET and, hopefully, someday a cure.

With the generous support of our donors,
we have been able to fund more than
$750,000 in ET research.


If you would like to learn more about the studies your donations have funded and the results they have achieved, you can find more information here.

Also, there are several clinical trials currently taking place that focus on ET-specific medications and wearable devices. If you are interested in participating in one of these trials check out the list of programs on the IETF website. You can also visit for easy access to free information on clinical studies for a wide range of conditions including ET.

Another great way to get involved is through a local support group. The IETF currently has more than 60 support groups around the world. We have a listing of all the supports groups on our website here. Or take part in our online support group through Facebook.

If you can’t find a support group in your area and Facebook isn’t your thing, we encourage you to consider starting a support group. We have all the tools to get you started and help you promote the meetings.

As always, we thank you for your support of the IETF and the ET community. The IETF has so many resources to share with patients, doctors, family members, and caregivers. We hope you will spread the word and help us continue to educate people on the most common movement disorder in the world.



Share Your ET Stories with Me

Hello to everyone in the essential tremor community!

I am new to the International Essential Tremor Foundation and wanted to introduce myself. I am the new marketing and communications manager. My role involves development of messages and stories to educate the public about essential tremor and the impact it has on more than 10 million people nationwide. I serve as editor of our magazine, Tremor Talk, and our Tremor Gram enewsletter. I oversee our social media sites, Facebook and Twitter, and manage our website, among other responsibilities.

I must confess I had never heard of ET before I applied for this position. How could that be? It impacts so many people and yet I was not aware. But I am catching up. Each day I read and hear stories from people of all ages who are living with ET. Just this week I was reviewing the applications from our scholarship recipients and was in awe of their positive outlooks, and also saddened by what they have had to endure. One student was diagnosed at age six, so he has had little experience of NOT having ET. One is a mother of three who said her biggest challenge has been answering her children when they ask, “Will I shake like that when I grow up?”

I am proud to work for an organization that is serving the ET community with awareness and education initiatives, and support, like scholarships. And last year we donated $75,000 toward research initiatives to further better treatment options for ET.

The learning will continue for me, and I am asking all of you for your support in this area. I would not be able to do my work without the ET community at large who share their stories of hope, frustration and, sometimes despair. No, some stories are not happy ones, but these are the ones that may resonate with others who are battling each day. I will do my best to share these stories and keep the lines of communication open. And, I look forward to the day when I can write that story about the breakthrough in research that will help everyone. I know it’s coming . . . keep the faith. . . and keep in touch with me.

I look forward to hearing from all of you out there. Write to me at



IETF Welcomes New Executive Director

Catherine Rice webThe IETF Board of Directors announces that after 18 years of leadership, Catherine S. Rice is retiring as Executive Director of the organization.  Throughout her tenure, Cathy has increased the IETF’s reach to over 100,000 people around the world.  Cathy, along with now retired Kansas House Representative Dennis Moore, in 2010 achieved formal designation for the month of March as National Essential Tremor Awareness Month.  In the last 10 years, she has facilitated 380 free ET patient education events in cities across the U.S., educating over 35,000 people.  Cathy also established a college scholarship program for students having a diagnosis of ET, as well as an ET research grant program that has awarded $1 million, thus far, for promising ET studies conducted by medical investigators.  We cannot thank her enough for her vision, dedication, and commitment to the IETF.

Patrick photoTo continue our desire to further our mission, the Board is pleased to announce Patrick McCartney as the new IETF Executive Director, effective Aug. 17, 2015.  Patrick brings over 20 years of experience with non-profit organizations.  He most recently served as the Executive Director of the Kansas City Kansas Community College Endowment Association.  Previously, Patrick was Vice President of Marketing at the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce.  His work experience focused on board relations, fiscal management, marketing and communications, and fundraising.  Please join us in welcoming Patrick to the IETF.  With your support, we are confident that he will continue the excellence of the IETF.

One of Cathy’s passions at the IETF was to recognize the achievements of students dealing with ET.  To honor and help continue Cathy’s work with college students, the Board is pleased to announce the establishment of the Catherine S. Rice Scholarship Fund.  This fund will be used to award four scholarships to deserving students both in the fall and winter semesters.  For anyone wishing to recognize the dedication of Cathy, the Board encourages donations to this fund, in her honor.  Information about the fund is available at or 1-888-387-3667. Donations and/or notes to Cathy can also be mailed to IETF, C/O Catherine S. Rice Scholarship Fund, PO Box 14005, Lenexa, KS  66285-4005.

The IETF awards four scholarships to exceptional students with ET

IETF Scholarship Recipient Karissa Hartzell

The International Essential Tremor Foundation is pleased to award four students who are affected by essential tremor with $500 scholarships for the 2015-2016 academic year:  Tyler Criswell from Altoona, Ala.; Karissa Hartzell from Andover, Ohio (pictured left); Katie Merrill from Arvada, Colo.; and Hannah Spence from Colchester, Vt.

“These four students exhibit impressive qualifications based on academic and extracurricular activities in their communities and will become outstanding, future leaders in helping create more awareness about essential tremor,” said Catherine Rice, Executive Director of the IETF.

People with essential tremor have to be adaptable. Daily activities are often difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish without some type of assistance. It takes a special type of person to look obstacles in the eye and continue to push forward, regardless of the amount of time or effort it takes. It takes drive, passion, and a strong sense of self, and these four scholarship recipients truly display what it takes to be successful in their college careers while coping with ET. Read more about their stories here.

IETF scholarships are awarded to qualified students of all ages who have been diagnosed with ET, to lessen the burden of higher education. The scholarship can be used for supplies, books or tuition at licensed, accredited institutions of higher education (including trade schools) and are paid directly to the educational institution. For more information about the IETF scholarship program, please visit


Three new IETF-funded research projects announced

Research-Appeal-2015-Facebook-CoverEach year researchers with an interest in studying the various aspects of essential tremor are encouraged to submit scientific proposals for grant funding from the IETF. To date, your research donations have provided nearly $1 million to fund numerous promising studies. This year, the IETF will fund three essential tremor research grants totaling $80,000. Grant funding was provided to the IETF from donors, people directly affected by this life-altering condition, like you.

The IETF will award $35,000 to the study entitled “Testing the GABA Nucleo-Olivary Hypothesis of Essential Tremor.” The goal of this research is to systematically test whether impaired function or degeneration of GABAergic N-O neurons induces action tremor, supporting the hypothesis that such mechanisms underlie at least some cases of ET. Read more…

The second study to be awarded $20,000 from the IETF is “Essential Tremor Research Program: Cannabidiol Anti-Tremor Action and Mechanisms.” This research will explore the effects of a particular cannabinoid known as “CBD” (cannabidiol) on ET. Unlike the well-known cannabinoid “THC” (tetrahydrocannabinol), which has mood-altering effects, CBD does not impact mood. CBD has already shown some promising initial results in the treatment of epilepsy, pain, anxiety, and other disorders. Read more…

The final study, “Abnormal Climbing Fiber-Purkinje Cell Synapses in Essential Tremor” will be awarded $25,000. This study will be conducted by Dr. Sheng-Han Kuo, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Columbia University in New York. Dr. Kuo’s team will build upon previous research after discovering an unknown abnormality in essential tremor patients at the location in the brain where the neuron’s electrical and chemical signals are transmitted and received. Read more…

Your research donation could make the difference between critical research being funded, or being turned away. Every donation, no matter the size, counts. Help us keep research moving forward! Make a research donation today and learn more about IETF-funded research.

New, exciting changes for DBS patients

Activa PC+SResearchers at the University of Washington are developing a new device to help monitor and record tremor changes in Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) patients. With the new Activa PC+S device, developed by Medtronic, stimulation can be turned on and off, leading to battery conservation of the device — an issue for current DBS technology. A person with essential tremor could detect their tremor and adjust the stimulation within clinician set limits.

The Medtronic Activa PC+S sits in the chest with electrodes, electrical conductors that make contact with a nonmetallic part of the circuit, wired into the brain. The electrode doesn’t have to be used to stimulate but since it is present, it can still be used to record tremor to later analyze for adjustments, if needed.

Researchers are also developing an Android smartwatch app to communicate with the piece of hardware from smartphones and smartwatches. When the patient senses the tremor, they can enable stimulation and modify within parameters in real time without a computer or without visiting their physician.

This device is not yet FDA-approved and still in early research stages. For more information visit, The Daily.

S’up Spoon launches for those with shaky hands

groupshot-small-950x713After 18 months of countless prototypes and trials, the S’up Spoon is now available. Started from a Kickstarter campaign, the S’up Spoon was designed originally for one person with cerebral palsy. But now the product is available to all who may benefit from its ability to help, including those with essential tremor.

Unlike a normal spoon, which normally requires your upper lip/teeth to pull content off, this requires you to tip food into your mouth. Simply scoop contents into the S’up Spoon, lift the spoon backwards, bring to lips and tip the contents into your mouth. The inclusive spoon is designed to reduce spillage, promote social interaction and make a wider range of food accessible. Each dishwasher safe spoon is made from plastic and weighs an estimated 25g. The item is produced and shipped from the United Kingdom and retails for £15 or $23 US (Shipping and handling not included). For more information visit,