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If I Can Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Why Can't I Brush My Teeth?

"You have Parkinson's disease" transformed Nan Little from a Person into a Person with Parkinson's, setting her squarely on a life path leading inexorably to physical and mental deterioration marked by increasing disability and a painful, possibly demented, end. Although never considered an athlete, upon hearing this diagnosis in 2008 at age 62, she became physically and mentally stronger by setting, and meeting, unexpected goals. Mitigating her symptoms through fast cadence cycling, she has climbed mountains and cycled thousands of miles. One doesn't heal from Parkinson's; one chooses how to live with it. Unlike most "athlete overcomes adversity" books, IF I CAN CLIMB MOUNT KILIMANJARO, WHY CAN'T I BRUSH MY TEETH? COURAGE, TENACITY AND LOVE MEET PARKINSON'S DISEASE chronicles an older woman's unorthodox approach to managing PD. She tells stories, encouraging patients to draw from her experiences points that are relevant to their own lives. She doesn't hide. Hallucinations, constipation, compulsive behaviors, and loss are all part of the picture. So is the emotion of standing on the roof of Africa, dipping her bike wheel in the Mississippi after cycling across Iowa for seven days and paying careful attention as her two year old granddaughter explains how to stop her "dancing hand." Each story is laced with courage, tenacity and love. "Nan shows how even the most challenging obstacles life puts in front of us can be stepping stones to something greater than we ever dreamed!" Linna Dossett Patient efficacy, having some control over her personal Parkinson's path, distinguishes this book from other medical memoirs. Nan encourages patients to take action based on scientific research with measurable outcomes. "You have Parkinson's disease." Those few words throw a person on an ice sheet with no ice axe to arrest the slide. Nan's story can be an ice axe. An estimated 1-1.5 million Americans live with Parkinson's with an additional 50,000-60,000 diagnosed each year, numbers growing as the population ages. Globally, this chronic neurodegenerative disease currently affects about 5 million. Although this book is about her experiences with Parkinson's, it is appropriate for any person who endures a neurodegenerative disease, and those who work with them or care about them. "Nan gives honest and raw insight into the process one goes through after being diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease and how our biggest trial can give us our greatest life lessons." Brandis Gunderson
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About the Author

Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1945, the youngest of four siblings and the only girl, Nan Little learned early on to meet challenges with strength and determination. Nan holds a bachelor's in English and Spanish from Albion College. After teaching middle school for a few years, Nan became a full time mom and volunteer. She returned to work at the YMCA, where she was a founder and first director of the YMCA Earth Service Corps, an environmental leadership program for high school students. After being recruited to the Chemistry department at the University of Washington to administer a program designed to help teachers understand how to teach Native American students, she was dismayed by her own lack of expertise. This lead her to earn a doctorate in Anthropology focused on science and math education for Native students. Nan retired in 2003, intending to fly fish her way into the sunset. Life had other plans. In 2008, at age 62, Nan was diagnosed with Parkinson's. She joined Jay Alberts' Pedaling For Parkinson's (PFP) program and cycled with PFP at RAGBRAI, crossing Iowa four times. She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2011, certainly one of few women over 65 to do so with Parkinson's. She trekked to the Annapurna base Camp in Nepal in 2012 and hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru in 2014. Exercise and Parkinson's advocacy fills most days. Working closely with YMCAs and other health facilities Nan helps set up Pedaling for Parkinson's programs around the nation. She serves on the Parkinson's Disease Foundation's (PDF) People with Parkinson's Advisory Council (PPAC) and on the board of the Parkinson's Creative Collective (PCC). She is an Ambassador for the Michael J. Fox Foundation's Partners in Parkinson's program, a representative with the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation to the Parkinson's Action Network (PAN) and an advisor for a company that makes an assistive cycling app for people with Parkinson's. Nan and her husband, Doug, live with their two long-haired miniature dachshunds in Seattle, WA. They dote on their four grandchildren. You may contact Nan at

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