Woman with Parkinson’s will run Houston Marathon

A woman living with Parkinson’s disease for the last decade will be running in the Chevron Houston Marathon in less than two weeks.

42-year-old Allison Toepperwein said she ignored her body's tremors for the first five years because she was in denial.

“You know when you’re cold and your teeth are chattering and you’re shivering? It’s like that and you can’t stop,” Allison said.  

Allison said she takes medicine every four hours to help curb the involuntary tremors on the left side of her body.

The single mother and former TV reporter distinctly remembers the first time she started showing signs of the incurable neurodegenerative disease.

“I was filling up a pot of coffee. My hands started shaking and I couldn’t think it to stop,” Allison said.

With no family history of Parkinson’s on either side, Allison said she put off going to the doctor for nearly five years.

But her body continued to deteriorate. She lost 20 pounds and at one point in 2014, she almost became disabled. She finally went to a doctor on New Year’s Eve that year and got the official diagnosis.

“I began talking with a lisp. My name is Allison. I began to drag my left foot. My left arm was useless. I couldn't type. I couldn’t actually move it independently. And then I began choking – on food, on water, and on air. I looked at it as - I’m going to die. What’s my life expectancy?” said Allison.

Two months after her diagnosis, she met a doctor that changed her life forever.

“Dr Joseph Jankovic. A world-renowned Parkinson’s doctor at Baylor College of Medicine. He looked at me and said, ‘get moving.’ That’s the only thing proven to slow the progression - is exercise,” Allison said.

She started with baby steps. First, by walking slowly, then eventually added more to her routine. At one point, she began climbing the bleachers at her old high school track.

“I had to hold on to the rail because balance is an issue for people with Parkinson’s. And I walked really slowly,” Allison said.

Over the course of the last five years, her progress has been incredible.

“I found that every time I went, the more I went, the better I got. The less I felt. The less medication I needed. The longer my medication lasted,” Allison said.

Allison has run in a number of races since then and even participated on the show American Ninja Warrior - twice!

On January 19, Allison will be running her first marathon to raise money for HAPS - the Houston Area Parkinson’s Society.

She's raised over a thousand dollars so far, surpassing her goal. She’s even run 18 miles in one go, to train for it.

Routes for the Chevron Houston Marathon can be found here.

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