The Ups and Downs of Parkinson's

Hooray for Daniel Stark's article "Living Large With Parkinson's" [June 21]. He's got the right attitude. And fortunately, there is additional help nearby for Parkinson's disease sufferers and those who care about them to enable them to maintain the "smell the roses" outlook in the face of this disease.

The Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area provides resources for education, exercise and companionship for those who don't wish to or don't want to go it alone. The foundation has information about more than 35 support groups, their locations and leaders for patients and caregivers in the metropolitan area and Baltimore. These groups, which meet monthly, provide speakers on such topics as improvement of speech habits, nutrition, new developments in surgical techniques like deep-brain stimulation and the latest in pharmaceutical products. In addition they have picnics, parties and outings to get to those roses that Stark talks about.

In Northern Virginia, a monthly lecture series on topics of interest including issues for caregivers, children of Parkinsonians, sexual matters and personal feelings about the disease is open to everyone without charge. The speakers are physicians, psychologists, surgeons and practitioners of allied therapies in various fields. Also very popular are panels of patients or friends and family members, who speak honestly and with great experience of the challenges of dealing with the disease. Exercise groups to keep mobile and psychologically healthy are offered as well.

The Parkinson Foundation can be reached at 703-891-0821. The Web site is www.parkinsonfoundation.org.

Alice Gross

Co-Chair of the Board

The Parkinson Foundation

of the National Capital Area

McLean

I have a dear friend who recently was diagnosed. She is 61 years old, and doing her best to be positive about her future.

Needless to say, that article was extremely depressing, and her family and friends are trying to encourage her to disregard it. There are so many people with Parkinson's, and I'm sure all of them had the same feeling. I don't understand why you wouldn't at least have countered the article with some information about the progress being made with the treatment of Parkinson's.

Christina Bruno

Potomac

What a terrific article. It was one of the best pieces I've read in the 30-odd years I've been reading the Post: more than educational, the author succinctly illuminated his and the human condition.

The mother of one of my college friends had Parkinson's. Like the pals with whom you shared your diagnosis, I didn't understand the disease at all. Decades later, your article made it real to me.

I am an "undiagnosed" 48-year-old woman, "healthy and expected to act like it," struggling to find time to smell the roses. I am luckier than most: In addition to my health, I have a loving husband, work that I enjoy, a modest but lovely home and garden, rich relationships with family and friends, enough money with which to travel frequently.

I also have friends and family who are (or have been) health-compromised. My mother is a 16-year survivor of small-cell lung cancer. Her health was seriously compromised by the treatments as well as by the cancer itself, but she is still alive, sewing, living with my father, rocking her grandkids. One 50-something friend is beginning his fifth treatment cycle for renal cancer that metastasized to both lungs. He is sometimes grateful (well, that's perhaps a little strong) for his life's lesson. "It's like Lance Armstrong wrote," he said. "There's before and after cancer. Nothing focuses the mind like a life-threatening illness." Between treatments, he has attended two Bruce Springsteen concerts, skiied in Colorado and traveled with his wife to Venezuela to visit old college friends. He plans to go the beach for his annual 4th of July guitar-playing frenzy.

Thank you, Daniel Stark, and other survivors. I promise to live as large as I can, too.

Cathy Carr Petrillo

Silver Spring

Home Births: You Can Do It

The study cited in "Home Births" [June 21] looked at certified professional midwives (CPMs) and had absolutely nothing to do with certified nurse-midwives (CNMs). Very few CNMs attend home births because they usually work with unsupportive obstetricians. Women can be reassured that if they want a home birth, there is now solid scientific research showing that high levels of education are not necessary for excellent birth outcomes. Many states recognize this.

If you are looking for a qualified CPM or have any questions related to CPMs, you should contact www.narm.org.

Eva Gavin

Overland Park, Kan.

Meat: Who Needs It?

The results of this Swedish study cited in "To Cut Fat, Eat Less Meat" [June 21] come as no surprise: Previous studies have consistently revealed that vegetarians are generally trimmer and healthier than their meat-eating friends. Medical reports also show that vegetarians enjoy lower rates of heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes and various cancers.

In addition to the health benefits associated with vegetarian fare, more people are seeking animal-friendly meals out of concern for animal welfare. The vast majority of farmed animals raised on corporate factory farms never venture outdoors and are severely overcrowded inside massive warehouses. Individualized veterinary care is nonexistent, and painful mutilations such as de-beaking, castration and dehorning are routinely performed without painkillers.

For the animals and our health, let's make our next meal vegetarian.

Dawn Ratcliffe

Outreach Coordinator

Compassion Over Killing

Takoma Park