She smiles. She laughs. She walks energetically in the sunshine as she talks about her kids, her husband, her job, and her goals.
Beth Kincaid, 56, looks and acts like a perfectly healthy person. And yet, she is the face of Parkinson’s Disease.
Kincaid has been successfully treated with therapy at Roane Medical Center’s Patricia Neal Outpatient Therapy Center. Now that it’s Parkinson’s Awareness Month, she is more than happy to make the world aware of what’s happening behind the smiling face that covers this progressive disease of the nervous system.
During a very routine visit to her primary care doctor, back in August of 2015, Kincaid answered the standard questions about her current state of health. She knew some things weren’t exactly right with her health, but she chalked them up to the aging process.
“I thought I was just fine and healthy,” Kincaid says, “but the doctor put some things together.”
Kincaid says she had low blood pressure, and had become a little more anxious lately. There were other subtle indicators, too.
“When I walk, I tend to drag my left leg a little bit,” Kincaid adds. “But I had back surgery 25 years ago, so I just thought that was leftover nerve damage.”
She was asked to remove her shoes and walk down a hallway while the doctor observed. The doctor pointed out that when Kincaid walked, her left arm stayed in one place, instead of swinging the way most people’s arms usually do.
Kincaid had experienced some pain in her left arm, but she’d assumed it was arthritis, just another byproduct of being in her 50’s.
“I don’t want to scare you, but I don’t want you in heels anymore,” the doctor said, “and I’m going to refer you to a neurologist.”
Between that visit and her appointment with the neurologist, Kincaid went online to research her symptoms. After tests were performed, the neurologist told her what she already suspected. Beth Kincaid had early onset Parkinson’s Disease.
“It wasn’t a surprise,” she says, “but it was still a shock.”
The only thing Kincaid had known about Parkinson’s Disease was that it’s “old people who shake.” She never thought that she – a vibrant, active, seemingly healthy woman in her mid 50’s – could be at risk.
She and her husband were hikers and bikers, they exercised together every week, and had regularly volunteered at the clothing closet for their church in addition to holding down full time jobs. None of that lined up with the image she had of Parkinson’s Disease.
But she soon learned that Parkinson’s no longer means instant aging, or an end to a full and meaningful life. After continued reading, consulting with RMC pharmacist Sandy Morgan about medications, and finding out about therapies like “LSVT BIG and LOUD,” she discovered she could still be active and engaged.
At RMC’s Patricia Neal Outpatient Therapy Center, Kincaid worked with a therapist for four weeks. “Andrea Branson was my therapist, and she’s fabulous,” Kincaid says. “We did all sorts of things from walking to doing strength training with rubber bands, balance training inside and outside, and she would have me walk on steps with my eyes closed and my eyes open.”
LSVT BIG is a physical therapy that helps patients expand what their bodies can do, which is important since Parkinson’s generally reduces mobility. “I know from my neurologist Dr. Timothy Braden (at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center), from my physical therapist Andrea Branson (at Patricia Neal Therapy Center in Harriman), and my primary care physician Dr. John Belitz (with Roane County Family Practice, Harriman), that moving and exercising are key for Parkinson’s patients,” Kincaid says.
Little by little, the physical therapy gave her more strength, and greater control.
“It was just really fascinating and, although it helped me physically, the confidence that it gave me was really helpful, too,” Kincaid says. “I used to do a lot of walking and exercising, and that’s where that anxiety comes in. I had been afraid to do those things because I was really uncertain about my balance.”
Today it’s not uncommon to see her walking the trails at Roane County Park, or even on a hike with her husband, Todd. Kincaid says the therapy helped her be stronger in mind, body, and spirit, and she reaped all those rewards right here in her home county.
She is certain her care has been just as good as any therapy she could have received in a larger city. Maybe even better.
“I’m so grateful,” she says. “Those therapists come here for a reason, and it’s really a team atmosphere.”
In addition to being a Parkinson’s patient, Kincaid is an employee of Covenant Health, serving as executive assistant to Roane Medical Center’s chief administrative officer and chief operations officer. CAO Gaye Jolly suggested that Kincaid tap into Covenant’s employee assistance programs that provide counseling.
It turned out to be a valuable resource at a time when she was struggling with fear. It helped prepare her emotionally for what was ahead.
Kincaid says a hand rail has been installed in the restroom at work for her, and coworkers are helping her cope with day to day challenges using the right combination of compassion and humor.
“I work in this incredible place,” Kincaid says. “They are here for me whatever I need, and I know that.”
Kincaid says every day is different, and she always tries to remember to keep faith over fear. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t know that I have Parkinson’s,” Kincaid says.
But for all the difficulties the diagnosis came with, Kincaid can also see some blessings as her faith and her marriage have become stronger. She tries not to project too far into the future, but she’s setting goals to work toward.
“I would love to be able to retire when I want to retire,” Kincaid says, “and my husband and I would love to hike or bike in all the state parks.”
She has one goal above all others, and that is to keep Parkinson’s from defining who she is.
Kincaid is very open about her struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. She thought long and hard about whether or not she should post her diagnosis on social media, but as soon as she did, she heard from a former classmate whose husband had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and Kincaid was able to offer hope and support.
She is now looking forward to helping others who have Parkinson’s Disease, as well as their loved ones. Her advice is simple and straight forward.
“Try not to be afraid,” she says, “grab onto today – you don’t know what’s going to happen – make smart choices, and do what you can,” Kincaid says.
To learn more about therapy for Parkinson’s Disease and Patricia Neal Outpatient Therapy Services, click here or call (865) 316-2950.