Josephine Jollymore and Margaret Milne met at one of life’s unexpected intersections but it was a meeting that serves Pictou County Parkinson’s Support Society well.
Jollymore was retired after many years of working retail in downtown New Glasgow, was active in two church congregations and had spent three decades as a Cub leader. Milne trained as a teacher before moving around the country, raising three children with her husband and eventually returning to Pictou County.
Jollymore’s husband, Gordon, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and it progressed slowly until he died seven years ago. For Milne’s husband Jamie, who died nine years ago, the progression was much more rapid.
“My husband and I were members of the group because we needed support. Gordon’s symptoms were managed for a long time but we needed to be around people who understood what was happening,” said Jollymore.
Milne remembers getting the diagnosis from a neurologist.
“It was a life-changing diagnosis and then we were told our next appointment would be in six months. We had so much to learn and adjust to in that first six months. We decided to try the support group and it was a good decision.”
Both acknowledged they could have walked away from the group after their husbands died but neither even considered it.
“There’s such a need for education and support and advocacy. Those are all things I can help with,” Jollymore said.
Instead of walking away Milne organized a Superwalk in support of Parkinson’s, a walk her family and Jollymore’s nieces and nephews are committed to and which has raised thousands of dollars over the years.
‘When you are dealing with the daily issues of a family member with Parkinson’s there’s no time to look at the big picture but now I can fundraise and advocate and use my skill set to help with some of the needs I see amongst the people I know,” Milne said.
Both claim work on behalf of Parkinson’s families is more energizing than draining. Milne remembers one instance of being very concerned when a meeting place had to be changed.
“We booked a dining room at Crofter’s and I was really hoping it would work for that one time. As it turned out our members were just delighted because many of them had given up going out for dinner. We had the room to ourselves and nobody had to worry about shaking or anything else. We’ve done it ever since and it is a highlight of the year,” said Milne.
Another highlight is a summer barbecue in Antigonish, hosted by a family that attended the Pictou support group until one started in the Antigonish area.
“It is a very social event, with family and friends and neighbours pitching in. Having social opportunities where people can get together and talk or just be around others is so important for families,” said Jollymore.
Pharmacists, therapists and other health care professionals are regularly asked to attend support group meetings while both Milne and Jollymore canvass members to identify needs that can be addressed.
“We also visit members who are now in nursing homes so they can stay in contact with the group. I don’t drive but Margaret gets me there and it’s just wonderful,” said Jollymore.
Milne said driving may be the only thing Jollymore does not do.
“People do a lot for our group because Josephine knows everybody and they see how much she puts in. If she asks a former Cub for help, she gets it. People just can’t say no to her.”
Jollymore recalls a message from a former Cub at her husband’s wake.
“He told me if it wasn’t for me half the North End boys would be in jail. Not true at all, of course, but it was kind of him to say at a sad time for me. Helping each other out is what we’re here for.”
In addition to doing all she can locally, Milne focuses on ongoing research.
“I support Parkinson’s research but I also believe something learned about multiple sclerosis or another disease has the potential to help us. We don’t know how heredity figures in Parkinson’s but since joining the support group I’ve seen it repeated in families. I have three children so research is very important to me.”
The support group meets the second Tuesday of every month from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Superstore.
“Everybody is welcome. They can come and take part or just sit with us and have a cup of tea,” said Jollymore.
- Rosalie MacEachern is a Stellarton resident and freelance writer who seeks out people who work behind the scenes on hobbies or jobs that they love the most. If you have someone you think should she should profile in an upcoming article, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org