To look at Laura Jean, of Stonington, you would never know she suffers from the life-altering disease Huntington's Disease, a neuro degenerative disorder she inherited from her mother.
"Half the time, people say. 'How are you feeling? and I say, 'I'm fine, how are you?' You know, but there's all these other things, invisible things, going on with me,” Jean said.
Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease can include jarring movements, mood swings and memory loss.
“The thing about HD is, when one member in the family, for instance a mother, is affected with Huntington’s, each child has a 50 percent chance of also inheriting the illness,” said Dr. Carolyn Drazinic, head of the Huntington’s Disease Program at UConn Health Center.
Patients often first pick up on Huntington’s Disease symptoms while at work.
"Their concentration may be less. Their ability to remember what they have to do may become impaired,” Dr. Drazinic said.
Laura Jean is in the early stages of the disease, but simple tasks, such as writing out bills, are now a challenge.
"The emotional ups and downs and (impulsiveness) and the things that really are horrible for a family to live with,” she said.
Over time, the disease can overcome a person, robbing the sufferer of an ability to live independently.
"It gets to the point where they can be in a nursing facility where they have significant impairments in their ability to care for themselves,” said Dr. Drazinic.
Currently, there's no cure for the disease.
The program at UConn is the only one of its kind in the state and it is investing a lot of time, energy and money into research.
Until there’s a cure, patients mostly rely on treatments to help reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Laura Jean relies on yoga and meditation and said, for her, it helps.
“The holistic things I've done have been life-altering,” she said.
She also has the support of her family, which is another powerful medicine..
"You have to have a sense of humor, for one, so sometimes we kind of have to laugh about things and I have a lot of help," she said.