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The Focus of His Energy

About seven years ago, Beverly McGowan noticed a tiny involuntary movement in the fingers of her right hand while she was on the computer—the sort of tick most people wouldn’t think twice about. But for her it was like a disturbingly unwelcome alarm bell. She knew all too well what it could be. Her father had suffered for years from essential tremor, a movement disorder similar to Parkinson’s. What would she do?

McGowan had watched her father deteriorate for years, falling under the tremor’s thrall to the point where he was no longer able to eat or get dressed by himself in his later years. Now it was starting with her. How would this affect her professional life? How would it impact her passion for hiking and taking nature photographs in the wilderness around her in her home state of Montana?

A nurse practitioner, she had a highly demanding but professionally rewarding job at the local VA hospital working with military veterans, some of whom suffered from their own movement disorders. But as McGowan’s tremor advanced—more quickly than she had seen with her father—it rapidly and unforgivingly began to impact her work. Her hands would shake so much she couldn’t hold a pen. Her speech was affected. The stress of not being able to speak or write while she was seeing patients only made matters worse. Eventually she had to give up seeing them at all.

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