Just after her honeymoon, Emma had blurred vision. It changed the course of her life.

Single mother Emma Tinkler has been through a significant amount in her short 48 years.

It all began before her honeymoon, when Emma noticed pins and needles in her hands. She had some tests done, though nothing concrete came back. Then five years later around the time of her honeymoon, she began experiencing eye and vision trouble. It was optic neuritis — a common indicator of Multiple Sclerosis.

"It was like there was a waterfall in the corner of my eye. I'd also had pins and needles in my fingers previously but it went away after a short time. But it was the optic neuritis that really worried the doctors," Emma tells Mamamia.

"By 33, I was diagnosed with MS. It was really hard — I was looking at starting a family. But the average age of someone being diagnosed with MS is 30, and three out of four of those diagnosed are women. So I was the perfect target really."

Watch the trailer for Michael J.Fox's documentary Still, which details his experience with Parkinson's disease. Post continues below.

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Fortunately in the early days post diagnosis, Emma's MS symptoms were minimal, and she lived a "fairly uninterrupted life". She and her then husband welcomed two daughters, and things were good. In fact, through medical support, Emma's MS has remained stable since her diagnosis.


But a few years ago, her health worsened again.

"At first I thought it was the MS playing up. Not having mobility was terrifying, and my body was not receiving the messages from my brain."

Over the space of 18 months, Emma went from having a limp to using a walking stick, to then a mobility scooter. It was a third opinion that confirmed another diagnosis when she was 45  — she had early onset Parkinson's disease. 

"Again, it was just so hard. I remember being told the news and thinking, 'How am I going to tell my mum?' But the good side was that having the diagnosis meant access to medication to help my mobility. As soon as I had that access, it literally changed my life."

"Those 18 months of having such limited movement, to then be able to move again meant so much. Even if I had been given really tough news, it was still one of the greatest experiences being able to sort of get my life back again."

Fortunately, Emma's mobility is significantly better than what it was for those 18 months, now with proper medical support, occupational therapy and medication. As for how Emma has both MS and Parkinson's, there's no link or medical explanation. 

"It just is what it is," she notes. "My mum convinced me to get the mobility scooter, and she was so right to do that. Right now I no longer have to use it, I just wait for the medication to kick in. But I still have the scooter if I need it, because of the unpredictability of Parkinson's. It's like my little security blanket that I have stored at home in case.


"There's a lot of symptoms that are similar between MS and Parkinson's — luckily for me, my MS is stable. But my Parkinson's is not."

Despite the circumstances, Emma is making the best of things. 

Emma with her two kids now. Image: Supplied. 

Although she and her husband have since separated, Emma says they remain on good terms and co-parent their two daughters together. This has also opened up a new avenue for Emma to explore again — dating. Recently, she's been doing some speed dating, going along with a friend who also has Parkinson's.


"I've been staying away from the apps because of the horror stories, but I've been doing the speed dating. It's nice to meet people face to face, and have a real chat, and for them to see me and how I move."

As for her health right now, it's up and down. That's the very nature of Parkinson's — trying to find a sweet spot with the medication, and dealing with symptoms and episodes that are sporadic and near impossible to predict.

"It's just so unpredictable. And that's why I'm so passionate about medical research and funding research so that we can give better treatment options and find a cure for Parkinson's. I also really admire Michael J Fox and all the work his foundation does — funding over $1 billion for Parkinson's research."

In a bid to raise awareness and funds for organisations and charities who help people in similar situations to her, Emma is more than happy to share her story.

She is currently championing Shake it Up Foundation's #Pancakes4Parkinsons campaign — having hosted her very own fundraising brunch for friends and family to attend. Emma will also be advocating even more in the coming weeks, given April is Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month.

"The highlight for me when hosting my fundraising brunch was seeing all my friends and family together and being able to thank them for supporting me in my Parkinson's journey. I've had my dark times with it (and still do) and I couldn't have done it without them. So it was a thank you, but I also hit them up for some much-needed funds for Parkinson's research," she says.


"From the outside, I look like a fit and healthy 48-year-old woman. So sometimes when I meet new people and tell them I have MS and Parkinson's, they're shocked. It's funny because with Parkinson's, one minute I'm doing a boxing lesson and the next minute my feet are sticky and I find it difficult to walk and move."

Emma doesn't like to think too much about the future. It's too much. Too overwhelming. It's quite scary.

So for her own mental health and peace of mind, she keeps her focus on the present — spending time with her friends and family, seeing her daughters grow up. 

"There are moments where you fall into a heap. There are times where something really crappy and embarrassing happens, you can't move and you feel so frustrated. I've learned to accept myself and those feelings. It's important to talk it through," she says.

"But by telling my story, I want to raise awareness and note why medical research is so important. Parkinson's is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world, and we need to stop it and get answers ASAP. This gives people living with it hope. And that's a really important thing to have."

April is Parksinson's Awareness Month and Shake It Up Foundation are calling on Aussies to show their support by to hosting a 'Pancakes for Parkinson's' event, or by donating at

Feature Image: Supplied. 

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