Kickin' Parkinson's One Lap at a Time

Going the distance to find a cure. A local patient enlists the community to help her kick a disease.

Susan Kauffman: "When I get in the water there are no symptoms. No symptoms whatsoever."

It's her place of refuge. A competitive swimmer in college, Susan Kauffman comes here to wash away the physical reminders of her disease.

Susan Kauffman: "Something was very apparent to me in February 2005. My pinky was shaking and whenever I would sit down my leg would start shaking. I didn't think anything of it."

But in time, her symptoms got worse. In early 2006, she made an appointment with a movement specialist.

Susan Kauffman: "Within five minutes of seeing this doctor she said right away, 'You have Parkinson's Disease.' No way could that be me. No way. At that point I had just turned 39. My boys had just turned three. It took me a while to swallow the word Parkinson's."

Susan was among the 10% of patients diagnosed before the age of 50. It's called early onset Parkinson's. For years she struggled to accept the news, even keeping it from her kids.

Susan Kauffman: "When my daughter was in fourth grade, her teachers told me I had to tell her what was going on. Once I said 'No, this isn't going to kill me, it's just the shaking and everything,' she just had such a sigh of relief. I realized I've got to make it part of my everyday life. I can't hide it. I'm not ashamed."

Then, in 2009, another turning point. She read Michael J. Fox's memoir, Lucky Man. The actor's story helped Susan start a new chapter in her life.

Susan Kauffman: "I just picked something out of it that made me feel like he knew what I was talking about. He was young when he got it and he's done a lot of work for all us with Parkinson's. I don't know if we would be where we are without his foundation."

So she dove in to help the cause and asked friends and family to jump in, too, and log laps for dollars to support the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

Susan Kauffman: "Being a swimmer my entire life and being in the aquatics area here at Midtown, they backed me 1000 percent. The first year I raised over $60,000. Second year over $45,000. I don't want to be a victim. I want to go out and help and raise money and if we can find a cure, let's go find a cure."

The fourth annual Kickin' Parkinson's One Lap at a Time fundraiser will take place this Sunday, October 28, at Midtown Athletic Club in Bannockburn. Anyone is welcome to participate. If you'd like to learn more about the event, go to

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times