PatientsLikeMe member Bev Ribaudo (“YumaBev”) was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) at age 47, but it hasn’t dampened her flair for comedy. “Humor comes naturally to me, and a little disease like Parkinson’s can’t take it away,” she says.
In fact, her condition has given her a new purpose: entertaining other “Parkies” with her deep reservoir of funny stories. She began a blog called Parkinson’s Humor, and most recently, she’s collected the tales from her blog into a book, Parkinson’s Humor: Funny Stories about My Life with Parkinson’s (available in paperback and Kindle editions). Find out what she’s gotten out of sharing her sense of humor in our interview.
1. Tell us about the role that humor plays in your life – and why it’s so important.
Humor has always been a part of my life. Both of my parents had good senses of humor; they needed it with five accident-prone kids. I had a lot of tragedy in my life when I was young – my first husband died in a car crash when I was 23 and my mother died of lung cancer 15 months later. She used to joke about her bald head (from chemo) and pretty much kept on laughing right up until the day she died.
My wonderful husband and I used to do comedy shows tailored for seniors. We traveled the country in a RV and did shows from Florida to Washington. I used to come out dressed as Dolly Parton and then I did a standup routine as Daisy Jane (Minnie Pearl’s niece). It was a lot of fun and we both enjoyed making people laugh.
When my mystery illness curtailed our travels, we performed closer to home. We stopped when I just couldn’t physically do it anymore. After diagnosis, I performed various skits at the RV Resort where we lived at the time. Whenever they needed some “entertainment” they’d just call me. I now live in a house and when I found a Parkinson’s chat room early one morning, and people who needed cheering up, I started sharing my funny stories with them and that’s how Parkinson’s Humor, the blog and book, began. I have seen what laughter can do for people, and I know that laughing helps me as well.
2. You’ve tallied 59,000+ blog visitors to date. What have you gained from sharing and connecting with other PD patients online?
More than you can imagine. I am still not quite sure how it happened, how people from countries I have never even heard of found my blog, but the feedback I get inspires me to keep writing. My wonderful husband says, “Parkinson’s didn’t take anything away from you, it gave you a new life.” And he’s right. I have learned so many things from the people I connect with online and in turn, have shared right back.
I feel like I have a whole new family of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandparents as well as a dozen or so new parents, LOL. I have one close online friend who ends every reply with “Love, Mom.” She had a daughter who was born the same year as I was, but died as a toddler and she thinks that her daughter would have looked just like me.
3. What led you to turn your funny stories into a book?
I made the blog stories into a book for just one reason: for people who are not computer literate. I had so many people say, “I printed out one of your stories for my Dad (Grandma, Aunt, Neighbor), who has Parkinson’s. He doesn’t do computers. Will it ever be a book?”
So, I spent most of this summer making it into book form. Sales have been pretty good considering I self-published and did all the marketing myself. I donated the first profit check of $250 to my local PD support group earlier this month. I hope to get a major sponsor soon, so I can send a book to every support group in the country for their library. I will not keep any money from the book for myself; it will all be donated to Parkinson’s. I hope to have huge sales for Christmas (fingers crossed).
4. You had Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery on October 18th. What was that like, and how are you feeling?
The first part of the surgery went very well and I am feeling very good. Tomorrow is the second part and I am told that the recovery will be longer and more painful, but I hope to feel well enough to go to a Halloween Party Saturday night. I’ve got my costume all ready (complete with antennae, LOL). There is a blog post detailing the entire surgery on the www.ParkinsonsHumor.com website right now.