NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Retired Nacogdoches neurologist Dr. Maria De Leon of Nacogdoches had an ironic twist in life. Her specialty is Parkinson's Disease. A decade ago she was diagnosed with the degenerative disease at the age of 36. Dr. De Leon no longer practices medicine, but as a survivor she continues to guide and mentor Parkinson patients.
De Leon would never be offended if you called her a "diva."
"Everybody in my family thinks I'm a diva and they just, you know, think I just like to bling this and make sure I'm stylish," De Leon said.
De Leon even titled her new book "Parkinson's Diva:A Woman's Guide to Parkinson's."
De Leon prefers the less used definition of diva.
"Being able to do supernatural things with natural abilities," she said. "You know you're limited by what you have, but yet you're able to accomplish so many things."
Accomplishments came early as a young student at the University of Pennsylvania to Queen's Square in London to residency at University of Texas.
"Things worked out and I went to the right medical school," she said. "I went to the right college and became a neurologist and it's ironic I ended up with Parkinson's."
De Leon had to give up her thriving practice, but quickly was determined to reinvent herself. The doctor became a patient's adviser and advocate for the Parkinson's Disease Foundation.
"It's given me really good insight to be a better doctor, be a better compassionate person and advocate for what's going on because I can see from both sides," she said.
In the forefront is first-hand knowledge that women with Parkinson's Disease have very different symptoms then men. Even as a neurologist, it took two years for De Leon to find out why she was hurting so much.
"And no one was thinking Parkinson's because of the pain and being so young," she said.
In addition to her book, De Leon blogs about specific topics helpful to anyone with a chronic disease. There's practical information.
"What clothing are good with people that are chronically disabled that are on wheelchairs," she said.
And the more intimate topics.
"This one is Women's Health and Sexuality," she said.
And learning how to listen to the illness.
"That they're still themselves," she said. "That' they're not any less just because they have a disease."
De Leon considers herself a survivor, best expressed in a poem she wrote titled, "In My Shoes." This remarkable diva reads its final stanza.
"In my shoes God is always fair and never gives up on me," she said. "His strength in my shoes makes my journey with Parkinson's more than just a bear."
Tears of hope for this survivor who wants to help so many others.