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It Takes an iVillage

Chesapeake Country’s Lauren Sue Masoero debuts as one of the Voices from the Village

by Margaret Tearman

Lauren Sue Masoero has found her village on line.

During three previous pregnancies, Masoero depended upon the traditional support system of family and friends. That changed with her fourth pregnancy.

“I was working full-time and stuck at my desk and computer all day. It was just easier to go on-line to search for information,” Masoero said. “I found iVillage and it opened up a whole new perspective.”

iVillage, founded in 1995 as an on-line resource for women’s issues, became her village.

“We have more than 18 million users a month,” explained iVillage representative Deborah Meyer. “Our strength is our community. Our members receive support from other women who are going or have already gone through similar situations.”

This May, Masoero went live. At Herrington Harbour Resort, she was toasted by family and friends for her courageous — and very public — fight against Parkinson’s disease.

“I’ve learned so much from these women,” said Masoero. “I have raised my two youngest children completely different from the first three, all because of what they’ve taught me.”

Parkinson’s was the second challenge it took an iVillage to see Masoero through.

On December 8, 1999, a new force entered Masoero’s life. “You never forget the exact moment your body starts doing its own thing. I was waiting to board a flight at Dulles. I’m afraid of flying so I thought at first I was shaking out of fear.”

Nearly two years later, Parkinson’s was diagnosed.

Again, Masoero found support and solace online, crying on the shoulders of her friends at iVillage.

“I received a life sentence that I can live with,” she said.

Masoero is living well. She regularly engages in an on-line exercise regime via the iVillage Pilate’s discussion group. “The Pilates board provides daily accountability,” said Masoero. “We encourage everyone to exercise regularly, not just those of us with Parkinson’s.”

Masoero has lost 70 pounds and in 2006, five years after her diagnosis, graced the cover of Looking Good Now, a now defunct magazine.

Deborah Meyer of iVillage/NBC, Seanna Bruno of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Herrington on the Bay owner Anna Chaney Willman, Lauren Sue Masoero and a son.

iVillage’s support groups, or boards, are dedicated to a myriad of topics including health and beauty, workplace and career decisions, wedding planning, environmental issues, and support for military wives.

Today Masoero is a community leader for iVillage Parkinson’s discussion board.

“We have about 10 dedicated posters,” said Masoero. “But the information is available to millions of people.”

Masoero believes in bringing the disease out of the closet into the open.

“I don’t know why people are afraid to say I have Parkinson’s disease,” she said. “I want to tell people I have this disease rather than have them look at me shake and let them wonder what is wrong.”

When iVillage asked Masoero to videotape her story for Voices from the Village she didn’t hesitate.

“I’ve shared the last seven years of my life with these people. I want to put a face on my story.”

The Dunkirk resident is one of six women from across the country featured in a new on-line video. The five other women, each with a different story to share, come from Colorado, Illinois, Washington, Vermont and Boston.

Back in the real world, champagne came with a check. Anna Willman of Herrington on the Bay at Herrington Harbour South made the donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

“When iVillage decided to hold an event to introduce her video, Lauren asked me if Herrington would host it,” said Beth Lennon of Herrington on the Bay. “Lauren and her husband Art are slip holders as well as friends.”

Herrington went a step further.

“We told Lauren we would also donate $10 to her charity of choice for every guest attending the event,” says Lennon. “About 50 people attended, and we donated $500 to the Michael J. Fox Foundation in Lauren’s honor.”

Seanna Bruno, the Foundation’s representative, gratefully accepted the donation, noting it will be put towards the Foundation’s main goal: Finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

“Lauren is a voice for the PD community,” says Bruno. “She’s telling everyone I live with this disease. And I am okay.”

To view Masoero’s video:

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