Essential Tremor Has Strengthened My Resolve

Each semester, the International Essential Tremor Foundation presents four scholarships to students with essential tremor. The scholarships represent hope for the future, and provide support to these students during a pivotal time in their lives. As part of the scholarship application process, each applicant is asked to write an essay that answers the question, “How has essential tremor affected my life?” The following essay is from one of our fall 2018 scholarship recipients.

 

By Graham Gaddis,
University of Tennessee

As the sixth child in a family of 16 children I am sometimes overlooked, but if we met for a personal interview you would learn how capable I am.

Photo of Graham Gaddis, IETF Scholarship RecipientIn the shadows and in the quiet, I have found an identity, and much of this identity has developed from facing head-on the difficulties of living with essential tremor (ET). I realize that having ET has actually strengthened my resolve to tackle life’s challenges and achieve my personal goals.

The process of living with ET has also enabled me to focus on my genuine priorities. I don’t have the time or the energy to be pressured to be someone else or simply please someone else. As a result of ET, I have learned to stand in my own skin and really pursue my own interests. For example, I am the fifth kid to go to college in my immediate family. My father, aunt and uncle are physicians. I have three sisters who are registered nurses and my brother is studying engineering. Therefore, most people thought I would enter college in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, math). But my future dreams include farming and food production. I have chosen to major in a field that is completely new to my family, but that I am sincerely passionate about. I think this boldness to pursue a degree unfamiliar to my large extended family has developed as I found courage dealing with my essential tremor.

It has not been easy to struggle daily to spread peanut butter on my sandwich bread, assemble a bookcase with 80 screws dropping them over and over again, or have to practice, in private, my penmanship so that it would be legible. I don’t really like that I spill a drink if it is too full. These things are not “fun”, but in the scope of the greater things in life I can still do everything that God has called me to do. I can shower those whom I love with kindness. I can contribute to my community and have a legacy of faithfulness. I can be sympathetic to the trials and difficulties others face and help in their time of need.

I know I can walk through the challenges of having essential tremor and I can still find joy in all of the areas of life that really matter.

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Interested in supporting students with ET during their educational journey? Make a donation to the ET scholarship fund online.

 

Research for Essential Tremor Gives Hope to Young People

By Deirdre Maciak
IETF Scholarship Recipient

I was only 16 years old when I was diagnosed with essential tremor. Up until that point, I don’t think I ever really registered how young I was. I had started driving, going out with my friends without supervision, and doing all the things that are expected of teenagers finding their way in the world. It’s an incredibly careless time in one’s life—there is so much ahead of you that the lines between the past, present and future are blurred.

Photo of Deirdre Maciak, IETF Scholarship WinnerMy main goals were always so clear to me. I wanted to get through high school consistently getting better at playing saxophone, study harder and get better grades, get into nursing school, and come out at the end with my dream job. But, being told that you have a chronic condition, one that won’t go away and will probably only progress over time, will bring even a busy-minded teenager to a halt.

Suddenly I had to reevaluate everything that I wanted in life. My diaphragm was spasming too much to have a good control on my air supply while playing saxophone. My physics class only had stools, and because there was no support, I spent more time trying to control my shaking core than paying attention to the teacher. I had a lot of questions. How am I going to be steady enough to draw blood when I’m a nurse? And, why did this have to happen to me, a 16-year-old girl, before I could achieve any of my dreams?

I’m not the first or last teenager out there whose plans have been derailed in some Quote from Deirdre Maciak about the importance of ET researchcapacity due to essential tremor. But, I am part of a generation of people with the condition who have better access to experimental treatments due to research and new discoveries.

Working with my neurologist, I’ve tried one medicine so far, but the side effects were difficult, so I’m exploring other options and I expect to need some of the new innovations in my lifetime for sure. Knowing that there are options out there to help control the frustrating symptoms has helped me put everything in better perspective.

Today, I follow what’s happening with ET by reading the International Essential Tremor Foundation (IETF) website, and watch what hospitals in my area, such as Brigham and Women’s, are doing with focused ultrasound. I was also excited to learn that a family friend, who is a research scientist, recently starting working for a company that is hoping to release a new drug that would be a big step in helping people with neurological disorders including ET. They hope to know this fall if they receive their next approval – and I am optimistic that it can help me and people of all ages who are dealing with this condition.

I was accepted into nursing school and start this fall! So despite this condition, and maybe also partly because of it, I’ll give it my all with the hope of helping people in general, and possibly those who suffer specifically from lifelong conditions as I do.

I still have a lot of questions. But, the new and ongoing research for ET gives hope to us young people, that even though our conditions may worsen over time, there are also so many ways that modern medicine can help us live our lives normally and we all need to work toward that goal together.

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July is a time with the IETF draws awareness to its many research initiatives: funding research grants, advocating for more research on essential tremor,  recruiting for research studies, and more. Your generosity is the reason the IETF is able to carry out these initiatives and work toward improving the quality of life for every generation living with essential tremor. Help us keep hope alive. Donate today. 

 

 

Essential Tremor Follows Madison to College

Each semester, the International Essential Tremor Foundation presents four scholarships to students with essential tremor. The scholarships represent hope for the future, and provide support to these students during a pivotal time in their lives. As part of the scholarship application process, each applicant is asked to write an essay that answers the question, “How has essential tremor affected my life?” The following essay is from one of our spring 2018 scholarship recipients.

 

By Madison Young
Student at Arkansas Tech University
Russellville, AR

I knew when I went to college that my essential tremor would come with me and life would be something different than what I am used to. The friends and people I have been around have seen my hands and arms shake for years. Now there would be new people. Plus, the stress of college would kick up the numbers of tremors I have based on the amount of stress on my body. I knew I could handle it or hoped I could.

I am a rehabilitation science major/pre-physical therapy so there will be no easy courses, but I also know what I want to do with the rest of my life. I am not going to let a little tremor disorder dictate my path. Right now, I am in a rehab science class and it is all about how to help people with disabilities – how to cope, adjust and react. I had no clue going into this class that I would learn how to adjust to my own.

Yes, I was diagnosed when I was 13, but I have never thought about how this would affect my life long-term, or how I should or would deal with it. I have only thought about how I am just a girl with a little tremor disorder. I honestly haven’t spent much time considering the positive and negative ways I have reacted to having ET. Truthfully, I have continued to think unrealistically, that I could get better. Only recently have I started to adjust to thinking that this is my life, and this is how it is going to be, and it will be progressive. This acceptance and so many new things I have learned about myself and others are helping me move past the fact that I do have this disability.

I could compare having essential tremor to being left handed (I happen to be left handed) or having a hitch in your step. People do not notice it for awhile; they think they see some shaking, but dismiss it. Then they see it happen again, and again, and once they “really” see it, they can’t not see it. My new friends in college didn’t see it for awhile. Now they are constantly trying to see it – see how bad it is, wonder if they can do something to make it better and ask me questions. I know that it is all with good intentions, but it is annoying at times. It makes me wish that I had never confirmed what they thought they were seeing. I could have left the elephant in the room. However, we all have our disabilities, disorders and differences. I have decided it can be looked at as a way to connect with people and bond in a way that others cannot. College kids . . . we all have things that make us self-conscious, but we move past those thoughts together and use our newfound friendships to build a support network and celebrate the things that make us unique. Carry on world. I’m going to be just fine!

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Would you like to support students with ET during their educational journey? Make a donation to the ET scholarship fund online.

 

Comprehensive Meeting Focuses on Tremor Disorders

By Shari Finsilver
IETF Board Vice President

Calling all tremor patients … I have some great news. We are in very good hands!

I had the privilege of attending the 1st International Tremor Congress in New York City on May 11 & 12. I must say, I was totally blown away . . . by the level of research that is currently being conducted around the world, by the wide age range represented, and by the organizational excellence of the entire meeting.

The goals of the conference were:

  • Formulate an evidence-based approach to optimize the treatment for tremor disorders.
  • Develop evidence-based scientific knowledge for the future clinical study design in tremor disorders.
  • Describe the up-do-date clinical diagnosis and treatment in each tremor disorder.
  • Indicate the cutting-edge scientific discovery for tremor, and also current tremor therapy development.

Among the approximately 200 people attending this inaugural conference, there were the experts present . . . those who have created the science of tremor research, whose names grace hundreds of medical journal articles, as well as the textbooks used by the numerous students whom they have all mentored. Then there was the next generation of tremor researchers . . . those who are conducting novel, original studies, leading the way with their brilliant ideas. Also present were students including students in the fields of neurology, movement disorders, public health, etc. They were there to learn, collaborate, and be challenged to continue this very important work. Since much of the successful research is a collaboration between academia and industry, many of those industry representatives were also present, ready to learn with the rest of us.

The first meeting day was devoted to science. This included research projects involving the circuitry of the brain, a focus on Purkinje cells, on climbing fiber synapses, and on neuroimaging, just to name a few areas of interest. The second day focused on the current and emerging therapies, ranging from medications under development for tremor control, to surgical interventions (both invasive and non-invasive,) to wearable devices that can improve tremor control.

The IETF was proud to be one of the many sponsors of this first Tremor Congress. A huge thank-you goes out to the course directors and their committee:  Sheng-Han Kuo, M.D. (Assistant Professor of Neurology, Columbia University), Elan D. Louis, M.D., M.S. (Professor of Neurology and of Epidemiology: Chief, Division of Movement Disorders, Yale University), and Ming-Kai Pan, M.D., Ph.D. (Assistant Professor of Medical Research, National Taiwan University). And, also to the faculty, whose presentations were outstanding.

The Determination to Keep Fighting the Challenges of ET

Each semester, the International Essential Tremor Foundation presents four scholarships to students with essential tremor. The scholarships represent hope for the future, and provide support to these students during a pivotal time in their lives. As part of the scholarship application process, each applicant is asked to write an essay that answers the question, “How has essential tremor affected my life?” The following essay is from one of our spring 2018 scholarship recipients.

By Brogan Speraw,
Freshman at Ohio University,
Athens, OH

As I enter my freshman year of college, I’m anxious for the trails ahead. What classes to take, what will finals be like, how different will the classroom setting be from the one I’ve grown accustomed to. But one tends to worry me more than the others: how will my tremors affect my college life?

My tremors make my penmanship very poor, and my fine motor skills suffer as well. This has caused many challenges in my life, including struggling in art classes due to my inability to draw effectively. In the past, my classmates would ridicule me for my shaking hands by making comments about how I shake or how I must be nervous, or how I could be used as a seismometer (an earthquake detector). But, being the person I am, I have learned to take the ridicule and laugh with them as well, often times joining in and having a better time because of it. I have had to learn how to explain the shaking of my hands. With age, I have also learned not to be embarrassed, but proud of the strong person I have become because of my condition.

Normal everyday tasks for most tend to be a challenge for me, one of them being eating in public. I tend to choose what I eat in public very carefully. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also learned how to live with eating and tremors significantly better, more often than not, ordering foods that I know will challenge me simply for the challenge itself.

I have a 504 plan that will follow me throughout college and the workforce. My disability will never go away, but I haven’t allowed this disability to hold me back. My neurologist predicted that I wouldn’t be able to write by my freshman year of high school, but I continued to write daily up until my junior year. It was during my junior year that I had to start doing a majority of my work by typing on a laptop. For my tests with answer choices that need bubbled-in, the school provides me with a scribe. Although this disability is a daily struggle, I have maintained a GPA of 3.967.

During college, I will continue to refuse to allow my disability to hold me back. It may be a challenge, but it is a challenge I intend to take on wholeheartedly, doing my best to make sure I succeed in all my academic endeavors.

I have been blessed with the determination to keep fighting the challenges that have been put in front of me, therefore being able to complete whatever I put my mind to.

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Interested in supporting students with ET during their educational journey? Make a donation to the ET scholarship fund online.

 

 

ET Will Not Prevent Me from Achieving My Goals

Each semester, the International Essential Tremor Foundation presents four college scholarships to students with essential tremor. The scholarships represent hope for the future, and provide support to these students during a pivotal time in their lives. As part of the scholarship application process, each applicant is asked to write an essay that answers the question, “How has essential tremor affected my life?” The following essay is from one of our spring 2018 scholarship recipients.

By Kelley Cordeiro
Doctoral Student at Molloy College
Rockville Centre, NY

How has essential tremor affected my life? I could answer this question by describing the challenges it creates trying to control my trembling hands with even the smallest tasks, like threading a needle, counting out change, applying makeup, typing, or measuring ingredients, just to name a few. I could talk about how much I notice my tremor at the end of a long day, when I try to unwind by reading a book or watching television, but I have to concentrate on trying to keep my head still. This becomes even more difficult when my head trembles on my pillow at night, making relaxation and sleep a conscious effort, and often an elusive goal.

I might answer that having ET has caused me to answer questions for my children about why I am shaking, why grandma shakes too, or the most difficult question, “will I shake like that when I grow up?”

There are so many possible ways to answer the question of how ET has affected my life. My favorite answer is that is has NOT affected my life. I am the mother of three wonderful children. I chose a mid-life career change to afford me the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom, but also involved returning to school at an advanced age. I completed my master’s degree in a new field with a 4.0 GPA. I am now pursuing my doctorate degree in the field of education, with the goal of being an agent of change in diverse learning communities.

I take on extra teaching opportunities to help cover the costs of my tuition, which increases my stress level, which increases my tremor, but which is not an excuse I am willing to let stand in my way, or prevent me from achieving my goals.

Will my children develop a tremor as they grow up? What is the best way to answer this question for my children? Research indicates that there is a strong chance that they may develop this familial condition. So, when I respond to my children I want to give them an honest answer, supported by the evidence of my example: Yes, you may develop essential tremor, but it doesn’t have to affect your life!

I want to thank the IETF for the opportunity to be considered for a scholarship, which can help me achieve my educational goals. I would like to say that ET has not affected my life, but the IETF has!

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The deadline for fall 2018 scholarship applications is May 1, 2018. Application information is available on the IETF website. Interested in supporting students with ET during their educational journey? You can donate online.

 

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!

 

The Mighty Mug That Stands Strong

mugThere’s nothing worse than sitting in traffic when you’re late for work … until you spill hot coffee in your lap. But now there’s no reason to cry over spilled milk—or coffee. The Mighty Mug helps those struggling with hand tremor (or those who are just generally accident-prone) as the self-proclaimed “un-spillable” coffee cup.

The Mighty Mug is a travel or coffee cup that creates a powerful airlock when placed on a flat surface. A small amount of air is trapped beneath, creating a vacuum that locks the mug in place, preventing the possibility of accidental bumps and spills. When the mug is lifted, the pressure instantly stabilizes, allowing the airlock to release and lift easily. Perfect for those frustrated with shaky hand spills.

The Might Mug keeps your drink hot or cold, is dishwasher-safe, BPA-free and comes with a 100% guarantee policy. See how it works at TheMightyMug.com. Prices begin at $14.99 and are only available online or at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Let us know if the Mighty Mug helps with your ET.