PJ and Kim Burns have a saying that they hold close: “No guilt, no shame, and no excuses.”
When Kim’s husband, PJ, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in 2015, at age 52, they turned to Parkinson Society BC (PSBC) for information and resources. They attended their first SuperWalk in September that year, where they met people who gave advice, offered hope, and encouraged them. “They advised us to live life to the fullest, do things now that you would regret not doing later, and find a group to join,” say PJ and Kim.
There was no support group for those with Young Onset PD in Langley, but PJ and Kim attended every PSBC event they could. They also spent a year online, participating in several Facebook groups, but none satisfied their need to identify with people in their community. In 2016, they decided to take the plunge and create their own support group. They contacted PSBC, and held their first meeting soon after. Their group was young at heart, had a common interest in exercise, and a tenacious will to persevere.
As facilitators, PJ and Kim value sincerity, and so they never claim to have all the answers for their fellow group members. They provide a safe place for people with Parkinson’s to meet, share victories, and encourage each other. Group members feel like friends and family; they laugh, share dinners, exercise, golf, and travel together.
PJ and Kim feel that a group is stronger when everyone participates. “When a friend shares their story, someone relates. When a friend laughs, someone else’s burden gets lighter. When we grieve, collectively we become closer and help each other through the tough times,” they say. “Parkinson’s is tough! Why travel alone with a backpack of fears and no GPS coordinates, when you can join a group, lighten the load and navigate this journey together?”