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My name is Cassandra Shearer (middle in photo), and I’m writing about the biggest inspiration in my life my mother, Jennifer Shearer (right in photo).

In 2017, at just 42 years old, my sweet mother was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease. This came as a shock to everyone. She was always the most active: running marathons, taking care of her family (four children, two of whom are still in high school), and having pride in her work. Now, at 47, she has been diagnosed with MSA. This, although unwanted, was not a surprise. Her symptoms had advanced quickly: low blood pressure, bad balance, and multiple falls. Some of the falls resulted in surgery or frostbite, which led to multiple scary hospital trips. She soon had to give up her walking, her job, cooking, and much else. This was hard to watch, especially as we were and are still so young.

One of the greatest things she has done was go back to school to get a second diploma. She was working a job she loved, close to home. Her symptoms started to get more noticeable, and the doctor advised her not to work anymore. This was difficult, because she is such an independent person. Although she had to give this up, she persisted and finished her diploma, with my dad pushing her across the stage in her wheelchair.

For every hardship she goes through, there are one hundred things she still can do. In fact, just this past holiday when I came to visit, she told me, “Eventually I won’t be able to make it up the stairs, even with help, but I’ll figure out different ways to do things”.

Her optimism is astounding, and her attitude is one of the things helping her the most through this journey. Although there are many things she can’t do like she used to anymore, she is creative and finds joy in the little things. She writes, plays games, and exercises. She is an inspiration to me and to everyone who meets her.

Throughout this, we have been fortunate to come across multiple resources, specialists, and groups that can help us get through this. We have gained an appreciation for every moment. It’s a hard fight, but together, we can make it just a little bit easier.