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Something wasn’t right

Jill Goss has been living with Parkinson’s for 15 years, but few people who meet her would actually know that she is. When the 75-year-old takes to the stage with her actor son Shane Jacobson, and her daughter Natalie Porter, to conduct the warm-up session at the annual Parkinson’s Victoria’s A Walk in the Park in Melbourne, her vitality shines above all else.

Jill was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2002 after suffering an unrelated minor stroke.  Looking back, she says, her smaller writing, dragging feet and her needing two hands to clean teeth, were early signs that “something wasn’t right”.

Her brother had Parkinson’s and it was his insistence to her to “get on the tablets” that started her on the road to better health. Just as important as the medication for managing the symptoms is the support of her husband David and a wonderful group of friends from Parkinson’s Victoria’s Essendon Peer Support Group.

Jill joined the support group when it had only two members. She was the third, but together with President Fred Van Ross, they have built it to the point where they expect up to 50 people to walk through the door at any one of the regular social activities and information sessions. Jill also speaks to community groups to spread the word about Parkinson’s and how it affects people.

“At one session we forgot to take the donation tin, so they passed around a plastic bag and raised $150 on the spot,” says Jill.

She also looks forward to the Thursday Painting with Parkinson’s’ classes in the nearby Aberfeldy Baptist Church Hall, led by an 85-year-old volunteer artist.

Jill is also president of a callisthenics club she started 51 years ago. It is some of those members who join her on stage for the warm-up at A Walk in the Park each year.

Jill has attended all eight of the annual fundraising walks. Her favourite memories are looking back along the Yarra River banks at an almost endless sea of coloured t- shirts, signifying the thousands of people walking in celebration and support of people living with Parkinson’s.

Shane Jacobson has been at her side every one of those walks and is once again the A Walk in the Park official ambassador for 2015.

How does Jill sum-up her 15 year Parkinson’s journey?

“Parkinson’s has changed my life, but not for the worse, because Parkinson’s people are really beautiful human beings.”

“I suppose the best way to sum up my situation is to say that I have Parkinson’s, but Parkinson’s doesn’t have me,” she says.

Jill joined thousands of Australians on 30 August 2015 for A Walk in the Park in Melbourne. You can help celebrate and support people living with Parkinson's by donating to A Walk in the Park today.

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