April 1, 2008

Kimberly Rakow McChesney ’85 Will Discuss Finding Peace After Parkinson’s Diagnosis At This Weekend’s CLW Conference

By Carrie Pasternak ’08

This weekend’s Council of Lafayette Women Conference will not only be a time for students, faculty, alumni, and staff to come together on campus and reconnect with old friends, it will also be an opportunity to gain inspiration and strength from some of the Lafayette community’s alumnae.

Kimberly Rakow McChesney ’85 will speak about her battle with Parkinson’s. She was diagnosed with the disease three and a half years ago and says the past three years have been a very long journey. She will talk through her journey in an interactive way and discuss some of the obstacles she ran into. She will discuss her initial reaction to her diagnosis and how she began to deal with the harrowing disease. She believes it’s possible to prevent the depression and loneliness that can result from such a diagnosis.

“My message is going to be very spiritual and very religion centered because that’s where I found my help,” says Kimberly.

She says that the summer of 2007 transformed her life. She had finished teaching and was spending the summer with her children. Having more free time helped her to see more clearly and recognize the important things in life.

“I have found that there is nothing more important than the relationships you have in this lifetime. If you have a good family and good friends then the rest is irrelevant, quite honestly. Any opportunity I have to be with friends or my family – I don’t give that up,” she says.

Since being diagnosed, Kimberly has found peace and says her life has changed for the better. This past September, she started a business, Photo-Productions, in which she converts still pictures into DVD slideshows. Ten percent of her profits will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation to benefit Parkinson’s research.

Kimberly says she knows that she never would have accomplished some of the wonderful things she has done in the past several years if she hadn’t been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

“The only thing I’ve wanted in my life is peace and truly I have found it,” she says. “If I can connect with even one person and make them feel like life is not a lost cause and that they can fight this and live happily and productively, then I will have been successful,” she adds.

This is Kimberly’s first major role in the alumni community. “My perspective has really changed,” she says. “I never would have done this four years ago. I would have said I didn’t have the time But you know what? The work will get done eventually — your child is only seven for so long and you can only maintain your relationships with friends if you cultivate them.”

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