If there is even a faint silver lining to her suffering, Sheryl Wilson says it may be a newfound creativity.
The Antioch quilter and knitter posits that treatments to foil the ongoing assault by Parkinson's disease on her nervous system may have made new connections to untapped synapses in her brain.
"I've gotten more creative and more artistic than I was before I had it," she said.
What the progressive, degenerative neurological disease hasn't changed is her gift for bringing people together, said the retired Pittsburg High School teacher. Feeling isolated after a back surgery last year, Wilson complained to a nurse about the lack of support groups in East County. The nurse suggested she start one.
Wilson is taking her up on that, and what better time than April, which is Parkinson's Awareness Month. It's also the same month Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch is displaying a national Parkinson's quilt featuring a square she created. Wilson plans to be on hand to answer questions about her fledgling group and Parkinson's in general from 10 a.m. to noon. on April 21. The group's first meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 23 at her home.
The eight-by-eight-foot quilt is one section of a 600-panel quilt that features 39 blocks showing the work of 186 quilters from around the world, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. The quilt was first displayed at the World Parkinson Congress in September, and Sutter Delta is the only site in the West Coast where a portion of the quilt will be display. It will be exhibited through the first week of May, Wilson said.
Wilson's two-by-two-foot quilt square can be seen in the quilt at the hospital. Her square is a tribute to her sister Lesley Jay, who died three years ago after a 14-year-battle with breast cancer; and friend Marti Richardson Oates, who is battling multiple sclerosis. These two women inspire her to rise above her own tribulations.
"The way they fought their battles -- the courage, the integrity," she said. "They didn't feel sorry for themselves."
It was during the 60-mile Susan G. Komen Walk in 2004 that Wilson first realized something was wrong. She kept tripping over the uneven sidewalks. By the next year, a tremor in her right hand had moved into her arm. She was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2005.
Wilson and her husband, Ken, who is also on disability, found themselves isolated as she faced the treatments and daily challenges of living with the new disease. Wilson soothed herself with a newfound love of crafting, but in recent months that hasn't been quite enough.
"Ken and I sometimes feel very much alone," she said. "It would be nice to know other people going through the same things we are."
The April 23 potluck meeting, with a half dozen people already signed up, is a step toward making that happen. She is hoping some people might sign up on the 21st as she promotes the quilt. It's not awareness if nobody notices the quilt, or is unable to ask questions about the disease after they see it, she said.
"I don't want it to just sit there and nobody knows what's going on."
WHAT: Parkinson's quilt display and informal talk by Sheryl Wilson
WHEN: 10 a.m. to noon April 21 (the quilt remains on display throughout April)
WHERE: Sutter Delta Medical Center, 3901 Lone Tree Way, Antioch