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Poem honors champion of Parkinson’s sufferers

Thursday April 28, 2005

Annie Braun

April 21, 2005(Roanoke.com) - Without Joan Shrader, Bea Baker said she wouldn’t know how to face Parkinson’s disease.

Shrader heads Roanoke’s Young at Heart Parkinson’s support group and has helped people like Baker come to terms with the neurological disease for years.

Baker was so moved by Shrader that she wrote a poem about her titled "An Ode to Joan," which was published in the summer 2004 issue of Parkinson Report.

"I was feeling downhearted and melancholy one day,/spoke on the phone to someone far away," the poem begins. "She talked with such kindness and caring in her heart,/her dear sweet words just tore me apart."

The two Southwest Roanoke County residents both of whom have Parkinson’s Disease first spoke when Baker contacted Shrader about the group after being diagnosed in 2001. Baker, 73, said she got the idea then to start writing the poem.

"I thought it was an awfully sweet thing for Bea to do," said Shrader, who has been a member of the support group since it started nine years ago. "It just seems natural to me to do whatever I can to help other people."

The support group has 15 to 20 members who meet from 2 to 4 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the Ronald McDonald House, 2224 Jefferson St. S.E. Members share snacks and listen to speakers who address various topics related to Parkinson’s Disease and lifestyle improvement in general.

"That’s where we get our real support is talking to one another," said Shrader, 61.

In addition to her role with the support group, Shrader said she is known by some as "Queen of the Forum" on the National Parkinson Foundation Web site, www.parkinson.org.

Since she was diagnosed with the disease 15 years ago, Shrader said she has read and researched the disease extensively and shares her knowledge with others on the Internet and with support group members.

An example of something she has learned is that Sinemet, described by Shrader as "the gold standard medicine for Parkinson’s Disease," is less effective when taken with protein.

"I am a nurse, I know a lot, but she’s the expert on this," said Baker, a retired registered nurse. "I think if every illness had a Joan Shrader, all of the patients would benefit."