Category Archives: Health

What does Thanksgiving mean to you?

For me, the holiday resonates with special memories of the whole family watching parades, football, and eating my late mother’s exceptional cooking. Those memories are treasures that line the walls of my Thanksgiving box for the rest of eternity. Those days are long past, but I am still fortunate to make special new memories with dear friends who mean so much to me. Times change, life moves quickly forward, and I am forced to accept change.

I think a keystone of this holiday is about one thing only, gratitude. In the hustle and bustle of shopping, cooking, pre-Christmas preparation, and Black Friday sales, the meaning of Thanksgiving gets blurred.

This year, I have lost more dear friends, neighbors, and close Parkinson’s disease colleagues than I can count on my fingers. Loss of loved ones, both friends and family are so bittersweet as I rejoice in having been part of their lives, yet mourn that those days have ended.

As the year quickly ends, I am ever so grateful for my wife and best friend, Angela, my wacky and hilarious chocolate lab, Lily, my relatives all across the United States, my dear Reiki and Parkinson’s families, and you the reader/subscriber who takes time out of your busy day to read my latest blog post. I am grateful!

Thank You!

Happy Thanksgiving!

10 Tips to Improving Your Life with Parkinson’s Disease and Other Health Conditions

10 Tips to Improving Your Life with Parkinson’s Disease and Other Health Conditions

Parkinson’s disease is an illness that may require varying strategies. It may take new and different tactics to work with the ever-evolving changes that may pop up over time. Here are a few pieces of advice to consider as they may help you as they have helped me:

10) Intake Matters – Consider everything that you put into your body. Stay hydrated! Eat as cleanly as you can (local organic fresh vegetables, balanced diet, pay attention to your nutrition) and going easy on processed foods. Try reducing and even eliminating soft drinks. Avoid artificial sweeteners! Diet and Parkinson’s disease seem to go together; which makes complete sense, as reams of research seem to point to the gut as a possible culprit for the illness. Since going vegetarian, by vastly reducing my soft drink intake, increasing my water consumption, and reducing my reliance on processed foods, I have noticed digestion and medication absorption both, seem to have improved.

9) Keeping Social and Well – Informed – Creating and maintaining a social life keeps you involved, knowledgeable, engaged, and active. A social network and/or a support group is an opportunity to connect with other like-minded individuals who are dealing with your condition. Sharing information together provides you with a resource for experience and wisdom from those who are living with illness as well as those who are caring for loved ones. Having a sounding-board of experienced people can be very helpful when trying to learn about medications, navigate local resources, find therapies, and share stories about your health care providers. Seek support!

8) Lowering Your Stress Level and Keeping Anxiety Down – There are techniques and complementary therapies like massage, yoga, meditation, Reiki, and Tai chi, which can reduce stress anxiety, and calm the mind; these are but a few of the many therapies that you might consider trying. Several of these therapies can help teach breathing techniques and ways to lower anxiety. Finding that balance of your mind, body, and spirit can have a significant impact on your health.

7) Special Doctor – If you have Parkinson’s disease or another kind of movement disorder, find a neurologist who is specially trained as a Movement Disorder Specialist. They have extra training and an understanding in neurological disorders.

6) Keeping Positive – A positive attitude is contagious. Making the choice of staying positive and identifying the good instead of the negative is important to create a healthy and conducive environment. Remember that you have a choice!

5) Gratitude – Hold on to your joy for life and the gratitude for all that is in your life! Appreciate what may seem like small things but really are not, is a good start. Medicine, doctors, clean water and air, a good meal, friends, family, and just being alive are all to be appreciated. Add the awe of a sunrise, a sunset, a good laugh, great conversation, and helping someone else, are all acts to be cherished.

4) Doing What You Can – Do as much as you can, while you can, and maximize your good days! Take advantage of everyday and make the most of them!

3) Be Heard – Get involved in your community through advocacy groups, local organizations, and share your voice about your journey with illness. Educate those around you about your illness and encourage friends and family to learn with you on how to improve the Parkinson’s community.

2) Do Something – If you are in denial, apathetic, or depressed, it may be very difficult to motivate yourself to do what you need to do. It may be helpful to seek help from a counselor or someone who understands depression. This may take small victories and small steps. It may take learning about the disease in small chunks. Know this, that everyone’s journey is different and that you can’t gauge one patient by another. The more proactive and motivated you are, the more prepared you will be. Being flexible and staying open to new opportunities can be very helpful.

1) You are Not Powerless – Realize that you are in the driver’s seat to your healthcare! You must be your own best advocate and make sure that you are doing your very best. Be proactive with conventional medicine, skeptical but open to other non-invasive therapies, and a willingness for change. A little hope and faith can go a long way!

I really do believe that we have the power to help ourselves. We have the power locked inside ourselves, we just need the right key to unlock it. I think it is up to us to find that key.

A Soft Voice In A Noisy World Book makes Healthline.com’s List of Books That Shine A Light on Parkinsons!

A Soft Voice in a Noisy WorldI was so surprised yesterday, when I came across this article from Healthline.com. I just discovered it, for the first time! They compiled a list of 11 Books That Shine A Light on Parkinsons. I am so honored to be on a list with such an amazing group of accomplished experts. This is a wonderful short list of really great books. Thank you, so much for adding A Soft Voice in a Noisy World to your list!

“Let It Go” – Reprise

Explore your creativity!

Clinging on to that which does not serve us only weighs us down. Rather than control our emotions, if not monitored closely, they may control us. I have seen anger and resentment consume the strongest of men and seen it bring them to their knees. I have seen a quick temper ruin friendships as well as careers. I have seen jealousy and greed destroy the trust of what appeared to be the most solid of marriages. Retaining negative emotions can do nothing positive. Why do we hold what we don’t need?

If you can make yourself sick, can you make yourself well? How often did your parents tell you that you were going to make yourself sick because of worry? Whether it was guilt, worry, anger, hate, anticipation, anxiety, or some other emotion, maybe we have the same ability to make ourselves well, if not better! We probably didn’t get ill overnight, so it is unlikely to think that we will get well overnight.

Letting go takes practice, discipline, and intuition. It takes timing. Knowing what to keep and what to release sometimes takes a leap of faith into the unknown. It requires bravery and will.

Not everyone is prepared to or immediately willing to release years of pent up anger, bitterness, hurt, or bad memories. Some of us are better than others at avoiding confrontation, forgetting our pasts, and discarding the regrets and losses of of our lives. Depending upon the severity of our emotional challenges, professional counsel may be required to realize what is necessary to move forward. I have little doubt that our emotions have a direct connection to entire body’s well-being.

Remember to let go of what you don’t need or just what doesn’t benefit you. That’s what I’m hoping to do.

–Reprise January 2012 – re-edited 2017

 

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An Inspirational Magic Man

I believe that people come in and out of our lives for a reason. Often, they may have an important message to relay or an example to emulate. Whatever the case, if we pay close enough attention to those people that we encounter on a daily basis, we might just recognize what it is that we need to learn from the encounter.

As an avid amateur magician, I enjoy finding and visiting small local magic stores in cities that I may be visiting. I have been to close to a dozen small magic shops over the years, and I continually meet the most fascinating, entertaining, insightful individuals who also share my appreciation for the great art of performing magic. I met the owner of the last magic shop in North Carolina. This store is in Asheville, NC and is called Magic Central.

One of these amazing individuals that I was lucky enough to meet was a gentleman by the name of Ricky D Boone. Mr. Boone has been a professional magician for almost 40 years. Even more remarkable is the fact that Mr. Boone was born with a rare bone disease. His mother was told that he wouldn’t live to be 4. Ricky is 67 years old.

My selfie with magician Ricky D Boone at Magic Central, Ashville NC

My selfie with magician Ricky D Boone at Magic Central, Asheville NC

He is reliant on a wheelchair but to be in his company and to watch him work, all disability goes out the door. To see him perform magic looks so fluid and effortless. His humor and patter put him in control of the room, and the feeling is comforting. This is the sign of a true showman.

Ricky did card tricks for my wife and me. His sleight of hand ability was most impressive. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. His patter was smooth and entertaining.

Ricky has received numerous awards and accolades for his performances and wonderful praise for his inspiring lectures. He is the recipient of two Emmy awards for a documentary on his life.

Ricky Boone is so much more than a magician. He is a model for us all in overcoming obstacles in our lives. He is a living miracle. Mr. Boone is a true inspiration to me, only after having the gift of getting to know him for about an hour. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet a man with such spirit, grace, humor, compassion, and presence. Boone‘s charity, The Vanishing Wheelchair is an extension of his drive to help others break down barriers for the physically challenged, through the art of magic.

I am reading the book about Mr. Boone, The Four Foot Giant And The Vanishing Wheelchair by T.J. Shimeld. I am truly enjoying the book and plan to report more on this amazing man!

Ricky Boone is more than an entertainer – he’s an inspiration for us all!!

Dyskinesia Isn’t A Dance and It Really Isn’t Funny!

Dyskinesia is the uncontrollable jerky movement of hands, feet, or head. Often misunderstood, dyskinesia is a side effect of the Parkinson’s disease medication. Sometimes, this side effect is embarrassing, annoying, and at times even dangerous. Besides drawing attention to you from complete body writhing, dyskinesia can be exhausting. When I experienced 1 to 2 hour episodes of dyskinesia, I would feel like I ran a marathon without ever leaving home. Small spaces, sharp edges, and anything glass or breakable was a potential hazard. Trying to hold a drink with dyskinesia is a struggle, as your hand wants to splatter everything in sight but your mind screams, “Don’t do it!”

Tremor and dyskinesia are different. Unlike tremor, dyskinesia is bigger than a rapid twitch or tremble. At times, my entire body wiggled and flailed. It still happens, but only on an infrequent basis. Dyskinesia interferes with delicate and precise movements as well as simple everyday tasks, like making a sandwich, pouring a drink, or slicing bread. Someone with dyskinesia may struggle to brush their teeth, comb their hair, or just perform normal acts of daily living. Constant care and awareness is heightened to avoid food from flying everywhere.

BellPeople who don’t know me that well, who may see a brief shake, may laughingly call it a “dance”. Calling dyskinesia a dance may be meant to lighten the severity and discomfort of the event for all involved. Dancing is by choice—dyskinesia is not. I tolerate this comment but admittedly wish that those calling dyskinesia a dance could refrain from reducing a drug interaction that affects so many, to a recreational act. Dyskinesia in public is a teachable moment! Explaining to the uninitiated that this isn’t part of the illness of Parkinson’s has been a constant challenge.

Understanding dyskinesia from the non-scientific perspective isn’t that complicated, but trying to negotiate it, reduce it, and calm it, is the hard part. Never knowing when or where it might crop up can keep you on edge. It adds more stress—not what you need! Over time, I have gotten better about finding some control with the help of meditation, yoga, breathing, and reiki.

I realize that the distinction between tremor and dyskinesia probably in the scheme of things isn’t all that crucial, but what is important is the way either symptom is accepted by the public. Educating the public and demystifying the nuances of Parkinson’s can bridge the gap and clarify just what the public should understand about symptoms and side effects related to Parkinson’s disease.

A Time For More Compassion!

Today, I have a slight deviation to my usual positive message for an expression of frustration and a plea that I strongly feel needs to be expressed. Consider this my contribution to advocacy:

Congratulations if you are watching and reading the world news and can remain calm. I for one, am unable to digest the vitriolic, bombastic, childish, unproductive, hateful, remarks coming out of our nation’s capital.

When I was a child in the 1970s and 1980s our greatest fear out of Washington was the threat of nuclear war. The fear generated countless classic Hollywood blockbusters and the story slowly faded in the background, until now. The threat was probably there the whole time, but it did not remain on the front page and now, in addition to the chaos of the Trump White House, the threat of climate change, and the shake-up celebrity marriages, it makes one ponder just what to do?

If you are dealing with Parkinson’s or any disease, this is the last thing that you need on your plate. Healthcare, doesn’t mean much, until you need to access it. Our Congress, Senate, and President are entitled to full lifetime health coverage for little or no cost. It is more than a nice perk. They don’t need to vote on a healthcare plan for themselves, they’re just fine, thank you.

As for the rest of us, who actually, could use affordable healthcare, many of us are left dangling in the wind and waiting for a solution. It isn’t pretty, sexy, or exciting, but it sure is needed. I have never seen our government at such a standstill as it is at this time. A stagnant Congress and a President in turmoil leave the millions of people in need of affordable care under undue duress and the inability to move forward.

I know of many friends and fellow people with Parkinson’s who have to make the decision to cut back on their grocery bill to be able to pay for this month’s medication bill. It shouldn’t have to be that way. Sacrificing from your already reduced food budget to eke out enough for some or all of your medications is a sad and scary trade off.

Therapy caps have created a huge problem in limiting coverage for appointments for those of us who benefit from occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and rehabilitation. These outpatient services keep many of us out of the expensive doctor’s offices, crowding hospitals, and keeping patients active in their community.

I wish I had an answer. I wish I wasn’t so frustrated. I wish someone would hear our voices!

Little Things Aren’t Always So Little

Living with an illness is a constant reminder that every day is precious and full of meaning. Signs and opportunities present themselves, if you stay aware to recognize these opportunities.

Here’s a recent example about a small gesture that made a big difference in someone’s life, as well as my my own.

A doctor friend in Ohio had asked us to teach him reiki. We don’t normally drive a few hundred miles across the country to teach one person reiki , but this was an experiment that we needed to try.

When first arriving into town, we checked into our hotel and found a place for a late dinner. The restaurant, a college bar and pizza hangout, was lively and rocking. Our waitress was very friendly, hard working,  personable young lady.

When the bill came, and it was time to pay, I felt compelled to reward her for her service and her hard work. I paid the bill at the table and slipped out to the parking lot to get back to our hotel around the corner. Just as we were about to get into our vehicle, we saw our waitress darting out of the restaurant, bolting towards our car. She had a huge smile and was beaming from ear to ear.

Quickly, the young lady, began to tear up as she told us of how her rent money had been stolen from a break in to her car. She said that her rent was due and that the tip that we had left her was going to make a difference. You could see it in her face how appreciative she was. For what I thought was just a kindly gesture and recognition of someone doing a great job, meant so much more to her.

What we perceive as one thing can be very different to someone else. I didn’t set out to make an impact on another, but I did. I received so much more from her story than I could have imagined.

Something that seemed so small at the time touched another and left a impact that I would have never expected. I feel so lucky to have had this experience.

I hope you too will try this experiment in rewarding and acknowledging those people who you encounter either with a kind word, an act, a smile, a gift, or a gesture. It is so important to recognize those around us and show our gratitude.

Book Review: Parkinson Voice Project

Dealing and Healing with Parkinson's Disease and Other Health Conditions: A Workbook for Body, Mind, and Spirit

Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s Disease and Other Health Conditions: A Workbook for Body, Mind, and Spirit

My many thanks  to my friends at the Parkinson Voice Project in Richardson, Texas for this generous review of our second book!

Book Review by LOUD Crowd® Member Carol Brandle

TITLE: Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s Disease and Other Health Conditions: A Workbook
for Body, Mind, and Spirit
BY: Angela and Karl Robb

Having a workbook to accompany the best-selling Parkinson’s book, A Soft Voice in a Noisy
World, provides an excellent wellness tool for individuals or group discussion. Questions in the
workbook are closely paired with chapters in the book. Additionally, some questions shine light
on new ideas, such as complementary therapies like Reiki, massage, acupuncture, and
reflexology.

Karl Robb brings the same positive attitude, hope, and strength to this workbook as to his
book, A Soft a Voice in a Noisy World. Exercises which reduce stress and reaffirm strength can be
done as individuals or in communication groups, such as The LOUD Crowd® groups at Parkinson
Voice Project. A caregiver or partner might use the questions to strike up meaningful
conversation with the affected person, whether Parkinson’s is the health concern, or some other
health conditions. Either format will help you balance the connection between mind, body, and
spirit.

It’s apparent that Angela and Robb write from a wealth of experience as they direct
questions to sensitive issues, such as “What are you willing to do to help yourself?” and creating
a timeline to improve communication with a health care provider. Angela was honored in 2015
as a White House Champion of Change in Parkinson’s Disease. She and Karl also author an award winning
blog, http://www.asoftvoice.com


Angela and I have been fans, friends, and Board members of the Parkinson Voice Project for several years. We encourage anyone unfamiliar with this organization to learn about the wonderful work that they do.

Nature Heals!

I have just returned from a working vacation in the mountains of North Carolina. The experience proved to be nothing short of amazing, as I saw an improvement in almost all my symptoms! Strength, stamina, balance, gait, sleep, cognition, and productivity were all improved and recognizably noticeable.

Nature has a healing property. Just to be surrounded by the abundance of flowering, fluttering, and stirring plants and creatures can reunite you with your connection with the planet. In this modern world, we begin to lose that connection with earth and sky, only to focus on flat screens, texts, and our on-screen accounts.

Once leaving the bucolic beauty of the lush green forest and coming back to city life, I find myself wondering if this is my healthiest decision. Returning to the sights and sounds of nature re-invigorated me–I found it to be a struggle to return to civilization, albeit, at this time, a necessity. Don’t forget to garden it, walk in it, swim in it, or just be in it–don’t lose your connection to Nature.

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