Former PDCCC chief looking for support

Published 10:22 pm Monday, August 5, 2013

By Stephen Cowles

Special to the News-Herald

A former president of Paul D. Camp Community College is taking the lead in establishing a support group for people affected by Parkinson’s disease.

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Douglas Boyce, 67, was six years into his term when the condition began to make itself known.

“The first awareness of symptoms was in 2007 at my daughter’s wedding,” Boyce said. “I was nervous and I knew I was, but I never had a tremor before.”

He added that during public-speaking events through 2009, the tremors would make themselves known.

“They would appear and get progressively worse,” he said. “I went to see a neurologist about it.”

“Many months went by with my taking three or four different medications,” said Boyce. He added that at one time the thinking was he might have had what’s called essential tremor.

Essential tremor is a neurological condition that causes a rhythmic trembling of the hands, head, voice, legs or trunk, and it is often confused with Parkinson’s disease.

Whatever the cause, the condition was increasingly having a negative effect on Boyce’s life.

“My effectiveness was being impacted,” he said. “Parkinson’s reduced my ability to do simple daily tasks in a timely matter. Parkinson’s slows down muscle systems in the body and different ways. For me it meant that at work typing on a computer keyboard became slower and clumsier.”

Daily tasks such as combing his hair and dressing were also more difficult.

“It was distracting,” he said.

Boyce stepped down at PDCCC in 2010.

“Actually, I retired earlier than I intended to because of Parkinson’s,” said Boyce.

He joked that he could have then become a bartender.

“Mixing a cocktail, it would be great,” Boyce said, smiling. “You’ve got to have a sense of humor.”

After Parkinson’s was identified, he began treatment. That included working with a movement disorder physician who specializes in Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease and multiple sclerosis, all neurological conditions.

“The specialist I found was able to guide me into a course of treatment,” Boyce said. “There were many different options. Sometimes one is emphasized over another. I did find some relief. But sometimes medications wear off, you change them and you have to move on to something else.”

He’s aware there’s no cure for Parkinson’s and strives to live a normal life as possible in spite of it.

“The best you can do is manage the symptoms. That’s what a support group is really all about – living with it,” Boyce said. “I like to say I have Parkinson’s, but it doesn’t have me.”

As for developing the local support system (the closest now is in Chesapeake, he said), there’s no time or date set for it. He hopes people will feel comfortable contacting him and talking with others having like-minded experiences.

“The group could become what it wants collectively. Caregivers are welcome as well,” said Boyce.

To learn more about the proposed support group, contact Boyce at 562-4432 or email Dboyce124@gmail.com.