​​​​Nan Little

​​​If I Can Climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Why Can't I Brush My Teeth?

Courage, Tenacity and Love Meet Parkinson's Disease




​​​​​​“You have Parkinson’s disease” transformed me from a Person into a Person with Parkinson’s, setting me squarely on a life path leading inexorably to physical and mental deterioration marked by increasing disability and a painful, likely demented, end. Although never considered an athlete, upon hearing this diagnosis in 2008 at age 62, I became physically and mentally stronger by setting, and meeting, unexpected goals.  By mitigating my symptoms through forced pace cycling I have climbed mountains and cycled thousands of miles.

As my metronome ticks faster than most people without PD, I do my best to see and experience opportunities that present themselves each day.  Some might call me obsessive about living life fully.  They are probably right.

I earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Washington and a BA in English and Spanish from Albion College, threaded with a summer “studying” Spanish at the University of Guanajuato, Mexico.

 After years of teaching middle school and later volunteering in schools and court rooms where I represented interests of abused and neglected children, I helped found and was the first director of the YMCA Earth Corps, a global youth leadership program. My anthropology doctorate focused on working with Native American tribes to prepare their youth to be successful in science and mathematics at the university level.

My husband and I are avid fly fisher people, traveling the west in pursuit of the elusive trout.  Our favorite fishing areas are Yellowstone and the Nature Conservancy Preserve at Silver Creek, Idaho.  Despite losing my ability to use my fingers to tie flies or tie them on the tippet, with cycling and medicine I regained my dexterity, thankful now that I can continue these passions.  We also love to travel and ski, both activities that I felt afraid were over when Parkinson's entered our lives.

Our four grandchildren are the best reasons in the world to find a cure for Parkinson's.