Tonya Walker of Baldwin Park owns more than 120 pairs of heels. A wife and mother, she updates her fashion blog, The Shoe Maven, regularly to update her followers on the latest fashion trends for women on the go.
She is also living with young onset Parkinson’s disease.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Parkinson’s disease affects approximately 50 percent more men than women and the average age of onset is 60 years old. Walker is among the 5 to 10 percent of people who develop the disease before the age of 50.
In her early 30s, Walker’s diagnosis made it difficult for her to wear her beloved heels and perform day-to-day functions.
“I gradually lost motor function and balance and, eventually, I could no longer wear heels,” Walker says. “While it was a small thing, it was nonetheless a daily reminder of what the disease had taken from me.”
In 2013, Walker underwent a procedure called deep brain stimulation, which allowed her to wear heels again. She used her blog as a platform to spread awareness and talk about her experiences, making her a symbol of hope for those affected by Parkinson’s disease.
Walker’s blog posts contain photos of her outfits as well as entries of her day-to-day life. One post discusses how her faith got her through as she struggled with the disease and another features her vow renewal. Her vulnerability is what helps readers relate.
“I would hope that my readers would see the incredible strength that can be drawn from faith in dealing with adversity on a daily basis,” Walker says.
In her fight against Parkinson’s disease, Walker has partnered with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to create a nationwide social media campaign called “Heels On, Heads Up!” Since then, she launched an annual fundraiser called “The Art of Fashion” in support of MJFF, which raised around $7,000 this past year.
“My experience with MJFF as a member of Team Fox has been incredible,” she says. “I have met amazing people who give me encouragement in my daily battle with Parkinson’s and who inspire me with their passionate support of MJFF.”
As for the future, Walker plans to expand her blog and continue raising awareness for the cause so close to her. She is currently participating in a video series for More Than Motion, an organization that spreads awareness for Parkinson’s.
“I hope the video series emphasizes the importance of exercise and communication with your physician to manage the symptoms of the disease,” Walker says. “For those who may be struggling with a recent diagnosis, I hope the videos show that you can have a wonderful, full life despite the daily challenges of the disease.”
Besides spreading awareness, Walker wants everyone to know that Parkinson’s doesn’t only affect the elderly. It can happen to anyone, and she says it takes getting over a lot of denial, anger and frustration to find peace within.
To view the first video in More Than Motion’s series with Tonya Walker, click here.