Though dealing with the difficulties of Parkinson’s disease, one local woman hasn’t let it destroy her independence, career or positive attitude.
For Carson City resident Gloria Navarro, living with Parkinson’s and still working a full time job at the Attorney General’s office poses its own sorts of challenges, but she manages for the love of her career.
“When I was diagnosed, I thought my career was over,” Navarro said. “When I got the diagnosis I was shocked, but my neurologist said that he wanted me to keep working to help challenge my mind.”
Currently, she’s the chief personnel manager for the Human Resources department with the AG’s office, but has worked for the state for the last 27 years. It was three years ago she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and she hasn’t let it slow her down.
“The only difference with my work is that I have to use a different kind of mouse for my computer,” Navarro said. “It is hard when you have the symptomatic days and stress plays a factor so I just try to keep my stress levels down and take it one day at a time and take deep breaths.”
Out of those in the Carson City Parkinson’s support group, Navarro is one of the few who still works, even with the disease.
“Parkinson’s doesn’t define me,” Navarro said. “It was hard but I had to take a hard look at what I do, and I love what I do. There are days it is a challenge but those days I just step away, take a deep breath and keep calm.”
“I do everything, I am independent.
“It hasn’t always been roses, there are difficult days, and days when the tears come to me, but I said no, you can do this.”
For her, the important part isn’t giving up.
“When I first was diagnosed, I thought it was a death sentence, but when I realized what I have I realized I have to make the decision to go forward,” Navarro said. “There is so much knowledge and so much hope to find a cure.
“There are days where it is difficult to get up, but then I think no, today is a new day and you have stuff to do. You have to live each day as much as you can because it is such a blessing. You may have challenges but it’s these days where you have to push yourself.”
When she first started shaking, doctors told her she had non-essential tremors and it wasn’t until 2015 they finally diagnosed her with early-onset Parkinson’s.
“I was going through medications, neurologists and general doctors to try to come up with a combination to calm the tremors, which is all trial and error based,” Navarro said. “So that can be frustrating and overwhelming. So it was an up and down thing before I finally accepted it.”
While medication generally helps keep her tremors under control, there are some bad days still and Navarro said it’s just about getting through it.
“For women with Parkinson’s it is different, especially working because men can get up and shower, get dressed and go to work,” Navarro said. “But women, we have to curl our hair, put on our makeup and all that extra stuff, and those are challenging.”
She said she will joke with her family; they will ask her if she curled her hair that day because she’ll have small burns on her face from trying to curl her hair with the tremors.
“When my leg is tremoring, my grandkids ask me if I am OK and I tell them I am fine, just mamboing,” Navarro laughed. “I always tell them too if I look extra excited or my eyebrows look arched it means I had some trouble putting them on today.”
For Navarro, it’s vital to keep making jokes about her condition.
“You have to have a sense of humor because it is too difficult without,” Navarro said.
Like many with Parkinson’s, being surrounded by a supportive community and family has created the greatest solution to the disease.
“There is so much support and it has been invaluable,” Navarro said. “Without it, I probably would have sat in a chair and called it quits.”
She said her two sons and her grandkids help keep her going.
“They are wonderful and so helpful,” Navarro said. “They are my blessings.”
At work, Navarro said her staff is extremely supportive, helping her adapt to various tasks.
“It is things like they will volunteer to pass out papers during meetings so people don’t notice my hands shaking as much,” Navarro said.
Navarro has participated in Rock Steady boxing for several years, a program that helps those with Parkinson’s remain active and help combat the progression of the disease.
“That is where my life changed,” Navarro said. “I give it 110 percent, it is hard work but the rewards are so worth it.”
Watching her fellow Rock Steady boxers power through their disease helps motivate Navarro.
“I think of all the people I have met at Rock Steady and I am so inspired,” Navarro said. “There are people in walkers and to see how they can forget about it and to see the progress they make, I admire it so much. It taught us so much and we are like a big family.”
Through the difficulty of the disease, Navarro tries to live each day as positively as possible.
“When I was first diagnosed it was like will I wake up today and will something else go wrong?” Navarro said. “When you recognize that you are getting worse that is scary and my fear was that my body would let me down. But I always try to stay as positive as possible ... it is what you make of it, you make the choice to live your life and take every day as it comes or you choose to sit in a chair and wither and waste away.”