Essential Tremor Awareness

Terry Hopkins of Blackfoot was 20 when she started to notice the tremor in her right hand. At first she didn’t think much of it until it started to affect her handwriting. Lines that used to be straight and crisp became wavy and jagged.

After seeing a neurologist, Terry found out she has a little-known neurological disorder known as Essential Tremor, or “ET.” Last year, former U.S. Representative Dennis Moore of Kansas helped push a measure through Congress establishing March as Essential Tremor Awareness Month.

While not life threatening, ET is a serious and progressive condition that can significantly affect a person’s quality of life – socially, professionally and emotionally. People with ET often have difficulty with everyday activities such as getting dressed, eating, drinking, speaking or writing.

For Terry, the progression of the disease was evident as the tremors spread from her right hand to her left, and then eventually to her head and neck.

“It’s difficult to write,” she says. “I try to do as much as I can on the computer; paying bills and corresponding with friends.”

Terry often finds herself in public speaking roles, and has to explain her condition, which many people often mistake for Parkinson’s disease or even just nervousness.

“It can be very distracting both to me and other people,” she says. “I just have to be up front and tell people ‘Please don’t pay attention to that. Focus instead on what I’m saying.’”

Thanks to former Rep. Moore and people like Terry, the word is getting out about ET.

“March is an important time for all those affected by ET,” said Catherine Rice, executive director of the International Essential Tremor Foundation. “We truly believe that where there is awareness, there is hope. The designation of March as National Essential Tremor Awareness Month provides our organization with another platform to educate the public about the condition, as well as raise much needed funds to find a cure.”

Terry and others who deal with ET in their lives have to largely rely on medication to control the tremors, but those can have side effects such as drowsiness, which makes it difficult or impossible to drive.

“I just want people to be aware of Essential Tremor. I want them to be aware that when people shake, it’s probably something,” she says of her desire to raise awareness of the condition. “Quite often, especially when you’re younger, it can be managed to a certain extent.”

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