Jeff Angileri
Apr 21, 2009, 9:26 PM

In her office at Lake Edge Church in Madison, Mary Hoffman coordinates luncheons, service projects, and guest speakers for more than 250 seniors in her parish. And she does it while battling Parkinson's disease.

Sometimes walking is hard, just getting my stride going. I personally have lost a lot of use of my motor skills. My handwriting is pretty bad, Hoffman said.

Seven years ago, Mary says she fell down her basement stairs and started to tremor. Doctors diagnosed her with Parkinson's.

It was kind of scary, but at the same time I was glad to have a diagnosis, she said. I could finally put a name to the symptoms I was having.

Doctors still don't know why Parkinson's occurs. But they say it's caused by a lack of dopamine.

Dopamine is what causes motion and balance, and the main symptoms for Parkinson's disease are tremor, rigidity, slowness and impaired balance, said Jessica Olejniczak, at St. Mary's Hospital.

Mary takes medications three times a day to alleviate symptoms. Exercise helps a lot, she says, so do the dozens of photos and notes of encouragement from family and friends.

The temptation is to kind of roll over in the morning and stay in bed. But, I get myself up and dressed and ready to go every morning, and try to make a difference for someone everyday.

Mary is taking part in a walk-a-thon on Sunday, April 26th. It's happening at noon at East Towne Mall. It's a family-fun event. There will be a dj, face painting, and a silent auction. Proceeds benefit the American Parkinson's Disease Association.