Staying Active with Parkinson's Disease

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - One million people in the United States are living with Parkinson's disease.  It's a chronic and progressive movement disorder that has no cure, but patients can control and influence how they adapt to the disease and still lead active lives.

At Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, folks know 73-year-old Shon Castillo as "the popcorn man" in the hospital's atrium.  After Castillo retired from Conoco a decade ago, he began volunteering in the hospital's ICU waiting room and as the primary "popper" with the popular quarter bags of popcorn.  "They smell the popcorn, that's the big draw," says Castillo.

Whether it's the popcorn or a familiar face, many people know Shon Castillo - but in their short encounters, they might not know that he has been living with Parkinson's disease for nearly eight years.  "I began to slow down and my motions were a little bit shaky, I just wasn't as stable as I had been," says Castillo.

Many symptoms of Parkinson's disease result from the lack of a chemical messenger, called dopamine, in the brain that helps control the body's movement. When Castillo got the Parkinson's diagnosis from his neurologist, questions flooded his mind.  "It scared me, made me angry and then the universal question of 'why did this happen to me?'" says Castillo.

Parkinson's disease affects both men and women in almost equal numbers. It shows no social, ethnic or geographic boundaries. Something that made Castillo and his family's acceptance of this disease easier to deal with was the amount of local resources made available through the Eljay Foundation for Parkinson Awareness.  "Mostly they want to be better educated," says Barbara Fuller with the Eljay Foundation, "and also if we have any type of referrals to physicians in the area."

Castillo and his wife attend monthly support group sessions where they can talk with others in a similar situation.  "It's somewhat comforting when you realize that other people have the same medical problems that you have and they too are looking for information," says Castillo.

Whether he's volunteering at the hospital or meeting with other Parkinson's patients, Castillo says in life "you receive from what you give," and he says that is what keeps him going each day.

*If you want to learn more about Parkinson's disease or take part in their monthly support group, call 310-0083. And, if you're looking for something to do this weekend, the "Tour of Nations" fundraiser for Parkinson's research is at 6:30 P.M. at the Lake Charles Country Club. There will be authentic Greek wines, food and the music and dance of Greece. Tickets can be purchased online at