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Sequestered Gratitude

If you are complaining about being sequestered at home, be grateful that you have a home and a place to reside through this craziness.

If you are arguing with your family member about who ate the last waffle, be grateful that you have the time to be with them.

If you aren’t terrified from this virus, then you aren’t alive.

If you are bored, then you have nothing to read, have nowhere to walk, made no attempt to expand your artistic acumen, are unable to access television, internet, radio, phone, or paper and pen.

If you have nothing to do while you are sequestered, then you know everything, have the perfect home, can do everything, and have achieved perfection. Congratulations!

If you are unable to just enjoy a few minutes of quiet time, by yourself, maybe you should ask yourself why this is?

If you aren’t grateful for this time with your family, dog, cat, or loved ones, it’s time, right now.

Take advantage of this precious time and savor your life at home!

A Very Different Parkinson’s Awareness Month!

In just a matter of days, our world has been turned upside down and around by an invisible and deadly invader. Many of us have turned to an online life of Zoom or Facebook Live. Whether it is for schooling, our occupation, support, workouts, weddings, births, or even funerals. Our life, from start to finish, has become a digital experience.

If we were a lonely planet before the COVID-19 virus’s rampage, our sequestering for our health doesn’t help our mental state. Socializing and getting to know our neighbors is improving and uniting us in ways not seen since WWII.

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month! As COVID-19 continues to impact the world, it frightens me that all of us who have Parkinson’s disease are more at risk to the virus. Many of us have weakened immune systems and are susceptible to respiratory complications.

 

This Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month Has Changed

This is a Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month like no other! As our message of awareness may get muffled in the shadow of the threat of this virus, it’s important to continue to share information. Normally, awareness about Parkinson’s would be focused on informing those unfamiliar with Parkinson’s about:

  • History of Parkinson’s

  • Diagnosis

  • Prognosis

  • Parkinson’s Medications

  • Research or Therapies

Rather than offer an awareness about Parkinson’s, we should consider a more timely tact to provide an awareness about protecting ourselves from this dangerous Coronavirus! Please stay strong and maintain your physical and mental health by staying active. So, here are a few sites to keep you informed and up to date:

Please don’t take unnecessary risks. Be safe! Be careful! Be Well!

Trying to Process Shock, Loss, and Grief

I didn’t see it coming and the shock that I feel is one full of confusion and sadness. Saturday night, our 11-year-old Chocolate Labrador, Lily, jumped off the couch for her late walk, but her eyes were unclear, her head was unsteady, and her breathing seemed shallow. We think she may have experienced a seizure. When your chronically hungry lab turns down an offering of a treat or a hunk of cheese, your warning sign has been activated. Lily was a canine vacuum, so when she turned down anything close to being edible, there is an emergency pending.

Thinking that you are flexible and easy-going can be dramatically different until, you are challenged.  Life has a way of sneaking in unexpected setbacks that knock your feet out from under you.  We recently experienced the challenge after picking up the flu, following almost a month-long trek through the southeast. This strain of the flu knocked us on our butts, hard. It lasted far longer than we had expected. Our loyal lab, Lily, helped us mend and kept us company, the whole time. She was our nurse and companion through the coughing fits. She wanted to make everything okay. She was selfless!

Angela and I were in crisis mode. We rushed Lily to the 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic. It was early on Sunday morning. Tired and scared is a bad combination, especially when you are worried about the fate of someone you love.

Lily was an exceptional dog, with great intelligence, and a stubbornness for chewing sticks and sometimes eating them. We just assumed that a stick had lodged somewhere, causing her discomfort or a blockage of some kind. Other than this new development, Lily had shown excellent health and vigor for a dog of her age. She looked spry and active and never missed a meal or a treat.

Motivation

 

Lily was a sensitive and caring dog. At first encounter when you met Lily you would see her lip raise and her teeth would come out—some saw a snarl, but if you knew her and her nature, you saw her smile. She greeted everyone with her welcoming smile. Her smile brought so much joy to so many, especially us.

It was close to midnight on Sunday morning at the emergency vet, when Lily tried to smile at her doctor but was only able to make a partial lip raise. She really tried. Her tail wagged and she searched for a greeting, but the energy just wasn’t there.

Our emergency vet was a young man in his early thirties. He was a very gentle and accommodating doctor who bonded immediately with the ailing Lily and her anxious parents. We explained our situation to the doctor. He told us he would scan Lily to check her insides for any possible cause for her discomfort.

Ten minutes after he had left the room, he returned with devastating news that she was bleeding in her heart due to a cancerous tumor. Her options were not fair to her and we were left with no choice but to give her a peaceful sendoff. We would not be taking her home again. It happened so fast and at around 1:00 AM in the morning.

 Trying to comprehend the situation and the sheer rapid pace of information and decisions that were being flung our way took all our concentration and strength. Our energy was drained, and our emotions were overwhelmed. We were not prepared for what the universe was doing to Lily and us and the speed with which it was happening. Lily was gone by 4:15 AM. All that I can say is it was a peaceful death. She didn’t suffer.

Dealing with the death of those who are close to us doesn’t get any easier with age. We are still in shock. The pain may dissipate over time, but it will never go away entirely. There are at least half a dozen places in the world that I don’t want to go– one of the top places is the emergency vet in the very early morning /late night hours, or at all.

We are so grateful for the emergency vets’ efficiency, compassion, patience, and kindness. He made a very tough situation much easier when it could have been even more difficult. As hard as losing Lily has been, we see a positive in the wonderful care that she received and the tenderness that we all were shown. There was no way to prepare for this shocking experience but together we will support each other to get through this difficult time.

We miss her so much!

Getting What You Need-Support

 

For the first 7 years of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I didn’t see a need, nor did I have a strong desire to join a Parkinson’s disease support group. When I moved to the suburbs, my neurologist, at the time, encouraged me to see what support groups could offer. After attending meetings of a few support groups, my wife, Angela, and I envisioned what we wanted in a group. In a very short period, I went from avoiding Parkinson’s support groups to speaking at them and even starting one of my own. My wife and I ran our support group for a dozen years. I learned so much from so many amazing people. As much as I thought that I didn’t need a support group, it turned out, that I really did.

The reality is that a well-run support group offers camaraderie, information, and a wisdom that comes from so many, all in one place. A support group can show you what is working and what to avoid, doctor information and feedback, available classes that pertain to Parkinson’s, local therapists, caregiver support, Parkinson’s news, and speakers in your area. When you find a good group, it feels like another family and a place that you belong. A strong network of family and friends is crucial to your health and wellness, no matter what the illness.

Some support groups may not match your personality or may not be the kind of group that you feel comfortable with, right now. I wanted a group that focused on the sharing of information and left me more empowered than when I came in. We made a lot of friends, shared both the good times and the rocky times, and provided one-another moral support. Despite our age differences and unique situations, we all learned together and bonded together into a cohesive unit for most of the group’s longevity.

We Are All In This Together

Knowing that you aren’t alone, is so important. Something as small as telling someone that you are thinking of them or that they matter to you can save another’s life. Knowing that people are thinking about you and caring about you is so empowering. Just a simple quick text, an email, a phone call, or a good old-fashioned greeting card can make a huge impact.

Care-giving has its stressful moments. We all need a break. Taking time for ourselves is not selfish-it’s a precious necessity. Your self-care makes you a healthier more helpful contributor.

Helping Ourselves Helps Those Close To Us

Patient or caregiver, there is no shame in admitting that you need help. It takes a strong person to go outside his or her comfort zone. Tell someone close to you what you are feeling and to let them find assistance for you.

I am not an expert on mental health nor am I a doctor. This is not medical advice; it is only what I have seen for over the 30 plus years of having Parkinson’s disease. I have observed friends struggle, who may have benefited from this kind of help. If you see a friend in need, reach out and offer that help. You may be saving a life.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 or 988 in the USA. Go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines for an international list of hotlines.

 

Ideas For The New Year

 

Fresh Starts Aren’t Always Necessary

It’s a new year and the thought of those resolutions on the club napkin are but distant memories. Seriously, resolutions can be wonderful intentions yet only to create a burden that wasn’t the intention in the first place. If you are truly goal-oriented, resolutions are simply extensions of those goals that are nagging you the most.

Making Priorities

My biggest battle with my body and mind as I age with Parkinson’s disease is prioritizing:

  • Contending with what I should do and what I don’t want to do.
  • Weeding out projects that I really want to do but know I shouldn’t do.
  • Identifying what I can let go of.
  • There are things I must let go of just to get better.

 There are sacrifices for one reason or another that we all must make. Illness doesn’t always influence our important decisions, but it can most assuredly be a contributor to the making of those decisions.

Drive

Illness provides a perspective for many of us, due to a pushing drive and a boosted sense of urgency. The only solution to quelling the nagging feeling, is fulfilling that drive to produce.

Trimming and Expanding

Most resolutions includes weight loss, health, reading more, less television, or a making more of or a reducing of something. Wanting to improve ourselves is the right direction to go, but if we go overboard, it may have a reverse effect and cause us stress, anxiety, and or tension. We must be careful to ensure that we aren’t doing ourselves a disservice by taking on too much. Knowing our stress level and not exceeding it is crucial to our well-being. Keep your stress level in mind as you monitor your health regimen and overall wellness. Be kind and forgiving to yourself whether you fall off the diet, or not. Stay committed to your projects of 2020! Best of luck!

It’s National Family Caregivers Month-Here are some thoughts!

CarePartner/Caregiver Appreciation

Those of us living with Parkinson’s disease and have a caregiver or care partner to assist us, may overlook or take our helpers for granted. Take the time to show your love and gratitude for all that your caregivers do for you. Show your support and make them aware of your appreciation and the changes that they make in your life. This is a thank you to all those selfless people who make life easier for those who need assistance.

 

Here are some tips for you and your carepartner/caregiver:

  • Caring-Taking care of another can be a rewarding and spiritual adventure that can bring our relationships closer. In any relationship, there are caregiving challenges that will require patience, understanding, compassion, empathy, and possibly, even more patience.
  • Stay Vigilant-You, the caregiver, are the cheerleader, coach, and trainer, all in one, for a team that may or may not show up. It is your responsibility, as a caring helper to be observant and to ensure that you not over tax yourself. You must see that you take respites and time for self-refreshment.
  • Appreciation-My wife, Angela, is the most caring, most selfless, most generous, and most thoughtful person that I have ever met. Acknowledge and do your best in thanking those making a difference in your life. It’s so vital that those caring for us know that they are valued.
  • Limits-If carepartners fail to monitor and maintain their own health, it is vital that those who care about them step up and say something.
  • Watch for Burnout-Continuously caring for another takes a toll on body, mind, and spirit. If a caregiver overextends themselves, they are likely to face health, sleep, and stress related illnesses.
  • Self-Care-Caretaking for yourself, even for a small part of your day can be calming, centering and help to keep you healthy. Keeping your identity and getting time for yourself is a health must for you and those around you. Just a few minutes a day can rejuvenate the entire body.
  • Taking Your Time-Pay close attention to any changes in how you interact and communicate. If you find yourself on edge, quick to react, and overly sensitive or emotional, take a few moments to scan yourself and the situation. Just finding a quiet spot like an office nook to try some deep relaxing breathing may quiet things down.
  • Knowing your Limits-This requires knowing one’s self. Monitoring your condition is as important as the patient’s status. As a team, if the caregiver can function well, the patient sees those benefits as well. Taking care of yourself is the best gift that you can give to those that you love.

It’s hard to take care of others well, if you aren’t well. Take care of yourself and thank you!

Rock Steady Boxing is making a difference in my Parkinson’s disease!

Rock Steady Boxing and my coach, Alec Langstein (https://rocksteadynova.com/), have made me stronger, fitter, and quicker. There is a definite and noticeable improvement in my mobility, agility, and balance. When I am hitting a heavy bag, I will hit it hard but when given the chance to hit with someone wearing focus mitts, I always hit harder, faster, and with more intensity. There is just something about the human interaction that makes me want to step it up a little and to put in even more effort. My coach and my boxing mates motivate me to do my best and to push myself to excel.

Rock Steady Boxing, three days a week, has made a very noticeable difference in my stamina, my overall condition, and my life. I am in the best shape of my life, if you don’t count the Parkinson’s disease—it sounds hard to believe, but it is true.

Finding What Works For You

Motivating words and cuing from my coach, my care partner/spouse, or even a concerned bystander can help me to work harder and find strength that I didn’t know was there. Music moves me, makes me box harder, focus better, and picks up my spirit, all at once. Digging deep down for strength has taught me that if I push myself, just a little more, I may be able to do a little more than I thought.

I encourage everyone with Parkinson’s seeking inspiration, motivation, and an exercise program to check out Rock Steady Boxing in their area. Finding that right exercise, therapy, or practice that feeds your spirit, is so important. Don’t wait or stop trying to find what works for you—time is precious!

Washington Nationals Win MLB World Championship!

Adversity

Washington Nationals Fight Finished @Nationals

Image by: Washington Nationals World Series Champions @Nationals

Epic sports comeback stories are reminders for us all that sometimes the underdog wins. When in the face of adversity, when pressed, the team that you discount will surprise you and overcome the odds. Sports teams, like the Washington Nationals Baseball Team proved so many supposed experts and sports journalists wrong. The Nationals won the wild card series and went on to take the World Series from the Houston Astros in game seven.  The Nationals (@Nationals) future looked bleak after the Astros won game five. Somehow, what looked like an unfathomable task, turned around.The team rallied to fight back and won to go on to the definitive game seven and win away from home.

Sports emulates life. Washington celebrates the accomplishments of the Washington Capitals hockey team, the Washington Mystics women’s basketball team, and now the Washington Nationals. All three have brought the DC area great excitement and energy. This remarkable baseball team found a win just when it needed it and thrived when their backs were to the wall. Like magicians, they somehow manifested what they needed at just the right time.

“Sometimes, it’s fun to do the impossible.”

We all face challenges in our lives that look insurmountable but if we hold on to the inspiration and belief that we can do something amazing, we may very well go beyond our limits. Walt Disney said, “Sometimes, it’s fun to do the impossible” and that’s what the Nationals achieved last night.

Congratulations to the Nationals for their amazing win!

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.

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.

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