This month's featured #bloomgirl is Jodi Cianci, Co-Founder of Shake It Off, a non-profit benefiting Parkinson's Disease Research. Jodi was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's disease in 2012, and instead of being defeated by this diagnosis, she and her husband used their situation as a platform to further research and awareness for Parkinson's Disease. They started their 401C and created events such as the Philly Rabbit Run 5K and License to Cure Gala that have raised thousands upon thousands of dollars, funding research and increasing the quality of life for Parkinson's patients. We are so inspired by Jodi and we know you will be as well! Read more about her story below!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hello! My name is Jodi Cianci and I am the co-founder of Shake It Off, Inc., a non-profit that helps people with Parkinson’s Disease live a higher quality of life through exercise therapies.
I was raised in New Castle, Delaware and now reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I graduated from the University of Delaware with a major in Consumer Economics and received my law degree from Widener School of Law in Delaware.
I started Shake It Off in 2012 after I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease and found that exercise helped relieve my symptoms. I had always had a passion for working out but when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD), exercise took on a whole new meaning…exercise was my medicine.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
My family, who wouldn’t allow me to pity myself when I was first diagnosed with PD. They handled our new normal with courage and humor. My husband, Chris is a Sports Medicine Chiropractor who knew exactly how to use exercise as medicine. When I got the diagnosis of PD, his comment to me was “You don’t have Parkinson’s; We have Parkinson’s!” and put me to work on his bicycle doing 45 minutes of spinning in our basement for six weeks. Tears would roll down my cheeks as I pedaled as fast as I could. This protocol was based on research at the Cleveland Clinic Hospital where high-intensity exercise can change the brain in Parkinson’s patients in a way that the medicine cannot. Also, our daughter, Kiki, who was at college at the time of my diagnosis, would send me inspirational messages and post notes around the house. I still have the handwritten note in my kitchen that reads, “Parkinson’s is banned from this house”.
Participants in last year's Rabbit Run 5k in Philadelphia
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, personally or professionally? How have you overcome it?
Prior to my PD diagnosis, I would have said, “Going to law school, at night, while pregnant, maintaining a house and working a 40-hour job in sales”. But that pales in comparison now to struggling to brush your teeth or open a plastic grocery bag at the market.
I try to live by the philosophy “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” Randy Pausch. I look toward the solution now. Through high intensity workouts, I have taken control and have been able to gain back some of my fine motor skills that the PD has taken away and avoided the traditional gold-standard medicines that are prescribed. Now, my biggest challenge is to stay physical fit and ‘pencil-in’, no let me change that to ‘permanent-marker-in’ exercise every day to control my symptoms and possibly stall the progression.
Attendees of last year's License to Cure Gala
If you could talk to yourself 5 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
Faith over Fear, my dear. I would start with ‘have faith’ that things will turn out the way they were meant to be and that you are stronger than you think. Life will always challenge you, but you must push past the fear to get to what you really want. No one wants bad things to happen, but they do. Your faith that everything will be alright has to be greater than your fear that it won’t. You can’t go to that dark place called fear because it will immobilize you. In some ways, the fear of having Parkinson’s disease was worse than being diagnosed with it. For three years I was misdiagnosed with other conditions, leading me to fear the worst. My fear led me down the rabbit hole of despair. But after the diagnoses was made officially, I acted. Not at first, but eventually, I believed that I was given PD for a greater purpose, to help inspire those with the disease to exercise to live a higher quality of life until the cure is found.
What are some key books/learning experiences that helped shape you/your company? Mel Robbins – Take Control of your Life
What are your favorite bloom products, and why?
I love the Mini Lined Notebooks for everyday note taking. They are sturdy and have fun patterns. I use them to keep track of my exercise routine, my to-do list, and more. I have them in my purse, desk and kitchen. My daughter loves the binders for work.
We hope Jodi's story inspires you as much as it has inspired us. We love that she took a hard situation and made the most of it to help herself and others.
⚪️1 million Americans are currently living with PD
⚪️60,0000 new cases are diagnosed yearly
⚪️Most people (~80%) are diagnosed over 50. ~15% are diagnosed under 50, ~5% are diagnosed before 40 AKA early onset
⚪️PD affects the nerve cells that produce dopamine. Dopamine acts as a neurotransmitter for movement, so loss of it leads to abnormal nerve firings and impaired movements - tremors, loss of balance, etc.
⚪️There is still so much research to do! There is currently no known cause or cure
Want to get involved and help? Stay connected with Jodi and Shake it Off!
- Check out their website for more info and to donate to their cause
- Connect on facebook
- East coast local? Attend their upcoming gala in PA November 16th, 2019, and/or sign up for the Philly 5k in April of 2020.
Know someone doing something amazing in your community? Nominate them to be a featured #bloomgirl by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
the bloom team