Jarvis was 38 when she learned she had the disease. She'd been weak, nauseated and disoriented. She fell down the stairs at her office repeatedly, and stiffness overcame the right side of her body, causing her leg to drag and her arm to tighten up, making it hard to move. She also developed a tremor in her right thumb.
As is the case with many people with young-onset Parkinson's, doctors couldn't pinpoint the cause of her symptoms. The disease doesn't show up on most MRIs; there is no blood test or other dependable diagnosis tool.
Often the disease is diagnosed when no other causes can be found, or when a patient responds favorably to Parkinson's disease medications.
Having seen several doctors who couldn't make a diagnosis, Jarvis started researching her symptoms and determined she might have Parkinson's. That's when she contacted Dr. Kevin Klos, of Tulsa, a movement disorder specialist who confirmed the diagnosis.
Jarvis said she felt relief at finally having a name for her condition, and the treatment Klos prescribed improved her functioning.
“I mean nobody wants to be told that they have a chronic degenerative disease that there's no cure for, sure,” Jarvis said. “I have plenty of bad/sad feelings about that. But there are worse things that it could be for sure, and what was key for me was getting treatment started.”
Through her foundation, Jarvis hopes not only to help fund the Michael J. Fox research, but also to donate to the Parkinson's Foundation of Oklahoma, which provides services directly to Oklahomans with the disease.
DID YOU KNOW?
A degenerative disease, Parkinson's disease kills the brain cells that produce dopamine, a hormone integral to controlling muscular movements.
Parkinson's itself is not deadly, but the CDC rates complications from the disease as the 14th leading cause of death in America.
About 15,000 Oklahomans live with Parkinson's disease, Jarvis said, and about 10 percent of all cases are young-onset, with symptoms showing before age 55. Most cases are diagnosed at about age 62, experts say.