Category Archives: Philosophy

Alike but Different!

I have hobbies: I write, I read, I travel, I photograph, I do Reiki, and I collect shark’s teeth. Shark’s teeth are elegant, silky, shiny and smooth. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and tones. Just like people with Parkinson’s disease, all the teeth are totally unique and full of character. The teeth are technically a waste product of discarded chompers that are fossilized over long periods of time. Some are black, brown, gray, speckled, multi-toned, sharp, dull, serrated, or pointed.

I can’t explain the connection that I have to these tiny but beautiful pieces of art. Nature and time have created a cornucopia of remarkable masterpieces. Some pieces are almost gem-like, worthy of display and adornment. Often, their beauty is overlooked, underappreciated, and cast aside because beachcombers fail to recognize what is right in front of them. They fail to identify the magnificence and uniqueness of the diversity of each and every piece. The teeth are results of wear and tear from years of natural forces, while being tumbled through swirling water and abrasive sand. The varieties of sharks combined with the range of conditions affecting the teeth, create a product that is easily underappreciated and often overlooked.

Diversity, it is to be respected and upheld, for without diversity, the world would be boring and tasteless. The splash of colors and striations throughout some of the teeth are due to minerals and variations from the water’s varying pH level. These imperfections in the teeth, add beauty and character, plus they make each tooth memorable and one of a kind.

It takes a fresh perspective to look at something so common, with new eyes. We must look deep and see what is there and not be influenced by what others may want us to see. Some will try to influence what we see. Most of us know what is right and what is wrong. Appreciating these teeth took realization and a level of understanding. I see their beauty even if some do not.

Does the Parkinson’s Profile Exist?

I have been fortunate to meet hundreds of people over these thirty plus years with Parkinson’s disease (PD) at numerous events. After a while, you notice more and more about yourself and those around you. It’s a question that I have been asking for years: Is there a firm personality profile, specifically for people who get or are more likely to get Parkinson’s disease (PD)?

Many of the neurologists that I have shared the idea with, have told me that there wasn’t a profile, while an occasional doctor thought that I might be on to something. I have always had a curious mind and having met so many people from around the world with PD, it has given me an opportunity to make some non-scientific observations and even a rough hypothesis. Here are a few of my thoughts: People with PD are mostly well-educated, professionals, type A, over-achievers, in high stress work, curious, creative, and are outgoing people. People with Parkinson’s are often risk takers and not risk averse. They appear to be determined and are driven to a result. From personal experience, people with Parkinson’s are rich in questions, have an insatiable curiosity, and are quite clever.

What if there is a Parkinson’s profile? What does it mean? Could it help lead us to helping people even before they begin showing symptoms? Parkinson’s disease affects people in so many unique ways that it has been discussed that it could be more than one disease. If PD is more than one disease, it could take several varying solutions to get this illness under control?

The complexity of the human brain and body is unimaginably daunting. It’s inner workings, connectivity with multiple systems, and the diversity of chemical reactions and maintenance is hard to fathom.

In the past thirty years, while I have seen numerous studies, trials, pharmaceuticals, surgeries, procedures, and therapies, however, I have yet to see a targeted individual plan that works for everyone with Parkinson’s. Maybe, if there were an understanding of what our universal link or links to this disease were, we could break it down and eliminate what it is that unites us all, illness-wise.

The brain and all its’ complexities have proven to be a formidable opponent in giving up answers. Parkinson’s disease is a mysterious and complex condition that is going to take multiple approaches to unraveling its’ secrets.

World Parkinson Congress (WPC) 2019 in Kyoto!

WPC Kyoto 2019

I have had the good fortune to attend 3 World Parkinson Congresses: DC, Montreal, Portland. The 5th Congress has been taking place in Kyoto, Japan #WPC2019. I have been listening to their official podcasts and highly recommend the first three days of podcasts: They are quite well done! The @WorldPDCongress brings the world of people together. This Congress brings together 55 different countries and 3000 plus attendees. I had the honor to be an official blogger for the 2016 Portland event. It is an amazing congregation of people with Parkinson’s, neurologists, researchers, care partners, sponsors, exhibitors, and demonstrations of what people around the world are doing to help themselves. For 4 full days, there are events presentations, panels, and discussions to inform, educate, and inspire. This podcast is hosted by Larry Gifford @ParkinsonsPod

Please take the time to listen to all the podcasts! This link starts with WPC Day 1 and the rest of the recordings will follow in succession.

The Mysterious Future

 

Ben Franklin is quoted to having said:

Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight”.

This quote speaks to me when discussing Parkinson’s disease or any illness. Living our best life now, prepares us for a better life in the future. For many of us who try to live in the moment but sometimes slip into predicting the future, we create unnecessary worry, fear, and anxiety. Procrastination for taking care of ourselves now, only delays our future wellness.

There are actions that we can take to prepare for our future physical health, financial health, mental health, and spiritual health. Some future planning can be very helpful in reducing future anxiety.

Our creative and active imaginations can run away with innumerable variations of what our future self will look like. Put a hold on that thinking and focus on the now. Our futures are variable, undetermined, and largely up to the decisions that we make, right now. Fate, destiny, karma, and the universe are most likely going to intervene as well, so let the winds blow and hope for the best, but don’t fret over the outcome, especially if it hasn’t happened, yet.

The quote also refers to the ‘sunlight’, something we all need but many of us with Parkinson’s are susceptible to skin problems. Due to the way our medications may impact our skin to sunlight, it is so important to  apply  sun protection to our skin, avoid direct sun exposure, monitor your skin, moles, and marks for any changes that might be a red flag to rush to your Dermatologist.

Franklin was focusing on staying positive and keeping a positive attitude for the future, in his quote. This is a message for us all to remember when we look to the future. The unknown isn’t to be feared but should be a fresh opportunity. The future may be different than we expect it to be, but it doesn’t have to be negative just because it is out of our control.

Thursday 5/23/19 Dealing & Healing Book Reading & Author event in NoVA

For those in the Northern Virginia area, I’m pleased to announce that this Thursday 5/23 the Patrick Henry Library in Vienna VA will be hosting us to share and discuss our Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s and Other Health Conditions book from 7:30pm-9pm. We will be reading excerpts from the book and taking questions from the audience. Copies of the book will be on sale and we will be signing books also.
No registration is required for this evening. You can visit the library’s event page for more information or click the link or image to download the flyer below.  We hope to see you on Thursday!

Patrick Henry Library Book Event flyer 2019

Karl Robb Patrick Henry Library flyer 2019

 

 

 

An Interview with journalist John Williams on his Parkinson’s journey and the common term that he created.

The following are 5 questions for writer/journalist, John Williams, who I met recently, at a local Parkinson’s disease (PD) event, here in Fairfax, VA. We talked about how important it is to remain active and not to spend too much time on the couch! Learn about John’s well-known creation and his amazing career as a journalist.

Question 1: You have been a journalist for many years and are one of the foremost experts on disability. You are known for coining the term “assistive technology”. How and when did you come up with this iconic term?

In 1982 I was writing a story for the Washington Post on a blind business man using a talking terminal. I was trying to find a word to describe what the technology to help the blind man that would be immediately understood by the reader. I grabbed a pencil and tablet and started writing phrases. I don’t remember the phrases that I wrote down. After 90 minutes, the words assist technology were the last words I wrote. However, I did not like the term assist technology.  I wrote assistance technology and service technology. I did not like it. Then I came up with the phrase assistive technology. I liked the way assistive technology sounded. I used the term assistance technology in the article. The editor accepted it. So I used it again and again and again in articles.

The word assistive was not in any English language dictionary at that time. It is now.

Question 2: When did you realize how important your creation of the term “assistive technology” was, and that it was catching on?

In 1985, I started being invited to conferences dealing with technology for disabled people. The words “assistive technology” kept appearing in the conference titles. And I was introduced at conferences as the creator of the phrase “assistive technology.”  I did a lot of free-lancing in the 1980’s.  I wrote for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and assisted TV producers from Japan, Brazil, Canada, New York and Washington, DC and did documentaries on disability issues.

My regret is I have been told many times by lawyers that if I had copyrighted or trade marked “assistive technology” I would be a rich man.

Questions 3: Your long and impressive history in journalism has introduced you to a laundry list of American presidents, celebrities, politicians, and prominent people in the media. Can you share some insights about any of the behind -the-scene interviews that relate to your Parkinson’s disease? I know you talk about how you have fought stuttering for most of your life. Were those who you interviewed, patient and understanding when you interviewed them?

I never had a negative experience with any of the well-known people I have interviewed. I stuttered less when interviewing politicians, CEOs, scientists, writers, actors and other well-known people.

I had two negative instances regarding my stuttering in which I won awards for stories. In 1972, I was working for a company in Pennsylvania that was moving into the environmental area. The company had an office in Rockville, MD.  The article dealt with waste disposal in the North Sea. The article was published in January 1973. My boss received a letter from the corporate headquarters in Philadelphia, PA. The letter stated that I had won a journalism award for my article on waste disposal in the North Sea. The letter listed the names of the other winners. The letter said that I was not to go to the awards ceremony, and I should not be told I won the award. I should be on travel on the award night.

I learned from a colleague about the award. When I confronted my boss about the award and not being sent to accept it, he said, “Corporate knows there will be thousands of people at the ceremony and a lot of international press. The award winners will have to speak. Corporate office wants to avoid the embarrassment of you stuttering in accepting the award and the embarrassment of people knowing that we hired people who stutter.”

I was told that if I went to the ceremony on my own, I should not come to work the next day.

Six weeks later I walked into my bosses’ office and quit.

A similar situation occurred when I wrote for an international magazine. I won an award from the California Governor’s Committee for employment of disabled persons. My boss told me I won the award, and the company would send me to California to accept the award. The night before I was to leave to collect my award, my boss told me that my trip was cancelled. Why? Because the bosses  were afraid I would  stutter on camera or while being interviewed. The company would be embarrassed.

I could not believe what I had just heard. I had been with the company for 3 years, and I had interviewed Senators, congressman, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Balmer, and other well-known people.

I did not go to the ceremony. My award was mailed to me.

Before I interview a well-known person, I make sure I know the subject area well. Sitting before a mirror I make believe I am interviewing the celebrity. I memorize my questions, and I keep my questions short. I listen. When I can I use a portable, digital voice recorder and take notes. I keep eye-to-eye contact with the person I am interviewing.

In addition I have a Sony handheld recorder. I use the Sony to tape my questions and compare my current interview past interviews. I listen to my recordings to hear my stuttering.

Question 4: Technology and assistive technology (AT) has greatly improved and is more accessible to the masses than ever before. You have been active in making this a reality. What have you seen over time and what do feel is left to do for those needing help with their conditions?

A lot has to happen.  Manufacturers of AT products must improve their marketing programs. They need to advertise their products on TV, on the Internet and in publications. Local, state and federal governments must put more money and resources into assuring that schools have the AT products from pre-school through college

The Assistive Technology Industry Association has to broaden its outreach in schools and businesses.

The press must be educated on AT products.

More people with disabilities must get involved in their communities as leaders, politicians.

More corporate giants must work with AT manufacturers to develop better and less expensive products.  Microsoft, IBM, Verizon, AT&T, Apple and Amazon are doing this.

There should be a month titled Assistive Technology month and PSA run showing the contributions of people with disabilities to the world.

A history course should be developed for schools on the contributions of people with disabilities throughout history.

Question 5: You have written for Business Week and several well known publications. What was your experience like as you worked with colleagues and you slowly saw your Parkinson’s disease (PD) advance? Were they understanding, cruel, at ease, or none of these? Did the publications that you wrote for make it easy for you or did you face challenges from your employers? Sadly, there are still challenges with employers and those dealing with conditions. Do you have any advice for them?

When I worked for Business Week, I did not have Parkinson’s disease. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 8 years ago. Since I was told I have PD, six publications that I wrote for regularly have dropped me as a contributing writer. Editors stopped calling me to write stories as a free-lance writer. Editors stopped sending me to assistive technology conferences.

In 2016, I co-wrote a documentary script with Carol Bash, an independent producer-director for Home Box Office and PBS.  The script was a history of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. At the time we wrote the script, my PD was out of control. I was having a tough time daily. Over six months I had three separate meetings with possible investors in the project. Because I could not guarantee the investors that I would be on the project from start to finish, they declined to put up the $200,000 to start the project.

I have also missed about a dozen deadlines in five years because of my PD. In several situations the editors were justified for not calling me again. Twice I sent in articles that had numerous spelling errors and poorly written.

My advice to employers interviewing a person with PD is learn about PD and what the person can do now. Give the person a chance to show their ability. Ask the person, “Can you do this task?” If the person says yes then ask “In the time allotted OK? or do you need more time?”

While Parkinson’s disease has slowed me down, I can still work and want to work, I can still do things on my own and will continue. I will keep my muscles moving. I am determined either to defeat Parkinson’s disease or fight it to a draw.

For more informtion about John and his work, visit his website by clicking this link.

The Power of an Amazing Quote

Powerful words stay with us and in a world of sound bites, there is no doubt that a good quote leaves a lasting impact. Here is my video on The Power of an Amazing Quote. Words inspire, motivate, and invigorate. Good quotes are memorable and timeless.
I hope that you enjoy this reading! Feel free to share it – if you find this to be helpful!
Thank you!
– Karl

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month 2019

2019 Parkinsons awareness month shirt 1

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness – Together WE are ONE

The month of April is upon us and this means a month of Parkinson’s awareness! There is an array of events, fundraisers, lectures, walks, and more that are planned for April, around the world. If you or someone that you care about is looking for an event in your area, you may want to Google:  local Parkinson’s events in my area, or visit your favorite Parkinson’s organization/charity website to see what they have going on, or consult your local support groups, hospitals, clinics, to see what you might attend locally.

We have updated our events page on this website for the speaking engagements that Angela and I will be presenting this month. If you are in the Northern Virginia area and have an interest in hearing us talk, please visit the 2019 upcoming events page and see what talk you think might interest you. We look forward to seeing you at one of the events on our list of future events!

Watch for more upcoming events and updates! You may want to subscribe to our site, to get the latest post fresh off the press.


In my 30 plus years of dealing with Parkinson’s disease and attending numerous events, conferences, walks, lectures, World PD Congresses, I have amassed an extraordinary collection of Parkinson’s disease related tee shirts which I will commemorate and share with you this April. This first tee shirt is sort of a mystery, but I believe it was created by my dear friend and Parkinson’s advocate, the late James Trussell. He was a dear friend and is greatly missed. He gave so much to the Parkinson’s community!

The shirt speaks of unity and strength–what a perfect message to start Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month!

Watch for more tee shirts from my collection, this month!

Building blocks for a future for better health!

Trust, faith, hope, and diligence are four key components to seeing your way through any health challenge. Personally, they have made my 30 years with Parkinson’s disease more than just sustainable. Living well with Parkinson’s disease takes a variety of skills that must be honed and used. Before I get to trust, let me express the essential weight that faith and hope play when facing illness.

Without faith and hope our internal drive shuts down and leaves us vulnerable to only worsen our condition. We all need to visualize a path for our future, whether it is a leap or a small step. Your path is yours alone and only you can determine the scope of your vision.

When I speak of trust, I mean the belief in oneself as well as believing in others. Trusting that if we follow our gut, listen to our inner voice, and do what we know in our head/heart is a big part of making a good decision. There is much more, though. When it comes to making an informed decision about your medical condition, it is best if you’ve done the research as well. You may want to consult those around you for their opinion.

Trusting your doctor’s decisions, his or her pharmaceutical suggestions, surgical outlook, or any other decision will require your educated consent. You have the free will to reject or accept your doctor’s suggestions. Trust can only go so far when questioning your doctor. You must weigh the pros and cons of the proposed medicines and possible procedures. Providing cogent reasons and facts for why you are adamant about going against a doctor’s wishes needs to be thought out and be thoroughly researched. Depending upon the severity of the recommendation, a second or third opinion may be needed, despite the trust.

Diligence means making use of your time and taking care of yourself. There are things that you can do for yourself that even your doctor can’t. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and keeping a schedule take discipline but can be very helpful when structuring your day. If you take medicines every day, structure is crucial to stay on time when administering medicines.

There was a time when we didn’t question our doctor’s advice, but with greater access to information and a better understanding of therapies, nutrition, exercise, diet, meditation, reiki and more, there is real opportunity to work with your doctor. As a constant seeker of information about improving your condition, you become a resource for your doctor and are empowered with knowledge that may unveil new options for your future.

Conference Nirvana and The Real World!

In 2003, I attended my first Young-Onset Conference in Atlanta where I met some great people and made lifelong friends. In 2004, I was asked to join the planning committee right after the Minneapolis meeting. In 2005, I would help organize and arrange conferences each in a chosen city until 2008: Phoenix, Reston, Chicago, and Atlanta.  Attendance was strong, and the Conferences brought in people from all over the world. The Conference for many of us turned into a large family get together.

The events were not only planned by the committee, but each member would present at the Conference as well. We were encouraged to live by example and to motivate the crowd. Our dynamic group of people with Parkinson’s covered an array of topics of how to live well with the disease.

When you bring hundreds of people together with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in one place, everything Parkinson’s seems normal and the world outside our hotel seemed odd. A peace came over us, where explaining ourselves to why we were doing what we were doing wasn’t necessary. Parkinson’s was the normal for this closed and safe environment and we all understood one another. A symptom of the illness or a drug side effect needed no explanation, but if it did it wasn’t drudgery to relate.  An overwhelming feeling of belonging and being part of something that was changing people’s lives provided us an amazing opportunity. When the final day of the event came around, parting was hard for us all.

The medical information was helpful, but the living knowledge provided to us was empowering. What really made the difference in most of our lives was the freedom that we felt inside those walls and the relationships that we would take away. It takes a special event to recall so many joyous encounters around what could have been a maudlin event—but it was not.

The unity of these participants was unlike any other that I had ever seen. The newly diagnosed were being encouraged by those who had a little more experience with the illness. For many of the attendees this was there first conference devoted to Parkinson’s as well as the first time meeting another person with the disease. This was an important moment for thousands of people with Parkinson’s disease.

This was an event sponsored by a large foundation, organized largely by a committee of 7 or 8 Parkinson’s patients, which focused on educating, empowering, and enriching those diagnosed with PD. Most of the lectures were from those living with the disease and not those attempting to treat this disease. Who better to advise on how to live with an illness than those living with the experience?

There is a place for medical conferences where the program is filled with medical expertise and experts related to the illness of choice. Far too often, I see conferences about living well or living better, but the conference organizers neglect to include the ones who are living with the condition. The ones who are living well with the disease are the experts, in my opinion.

A doctor can tell you about research, medications, studies, and possible medical procedures, but they can’t tell you what it is to live inside our bodies. They can speculate and imagine, but it just isn’t the same. A conference for people with a specific illness, like PD, ought to be planned by the ones who understand it the most.

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