Blog Archives

Parkinson’s is Still a Mystery!

In Norman Cousins’ book, Anatomy of An Illness, Cousins mentions a placebo study where over eighty percent of the Parkinson’s patients showed improvement. Participants in the study were told that they were receiving a powerful new drug. The pill that they were taking was not a new drug, but the expectation of benefits was strong enough to show improvement. If Parkinson’s is degenerative, wouldn’t you think that the placebo effect wouldn’t work anymore? How is this possible?

Two years ago, after having Parkinson’s symptoms for over thirty years, I experienced twenty-four hours without showing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. I don’t understand, and I am not so sure that the medical community can explain such an event!

If those neurons that supposedly are dormant, dead, or erased, then someone needs to explain to me how a placebo effect and a Parkinson holiday are still possible! This is a tricky illness that manifests slowly and often very secretively. Often, the first symptoms may be constipation, loss of sense of smell, shoulder or wrist pain, or neck pain.

The latest research points to the gut as being the key culprit for the beginnings of this illness but is Parkinson’s more than one illness? By all the discussions that I have had with experts (many of those living with Parkinson’s and many working in the Parkinson’s disease field), who confirm their belief that it is very likely that we may be dealing with a variety of different illnesses.

A common saying in the Parkinson’s community is that “if you’ve met someone with Parkinson’s then you’ve met someone with Parkinson’s “, meaning that everyone with Parkinson’s is unique. The uniqueness of each and every case and how different each individual deals with a variation of symptoms keeps both patients and their neurologist guessing how to countermove.

Balancing the right diet, maintaining a challenging exercise regimen, and working closely with your neurologist for the right personalized plan are vital pieces to staying on top of my Parkinson’s. We all may respond to something completely different. The key is to discover what the something is that makes that difference for you!

We Can Work Through Pressure

Pressure hits us all. Some people thrive under pressure, while others just cannot deal with it. The varying degrees of pressure may depend upon where we are in our lives. When we are hit with multiple stress points in our life, like illness, family issues, concerns about loved ones, financial dealings, or just daily living, pressure will compound.

Unexpected events are going to pop up as we get older.  Factors totally out of our control will try to take a toll, but there are ways to be better prepared for the unexpected obstacles that we may encounter. These are not sure-fire solutions for dealing with pressure, but maybe one or two methods to offer a few moments of solace and peace.

  1. Focusing on your breathing and sitting quietly for brief periods can be calming. Clearing your thoughts from your mind and just focusing on yourself only for a few minutes may help to reduce the pressure.
  2. Relaxation, be it reading a novel, working on a jigsaw puzzle, or listening to your favorite music should not be forgotten or discounted. I am a big fan of music.
  3. Keeping a journal, drawing, singing, looking at photos, or watching your favorite comedy are all ways to relieve the pressure for a brief respite. These are but a few of the variety of options available to us.

Sometimes the pressure in our lives requires outside intervention and we need the help of family, friends, or even professional help. Don’t push away help if you truly need it. We all need help at some point!

What Every Person with Parkinson’s Needs to Know About Air Travel

Plane Travel!

Don’t be alarmed– but be aware, my fellow Parkinson’s disease travelers!

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about along our journey, it was released recently, that the Transportation & Security Administration (TSA) has a program called “Quiet Skies” that is noting behavior, looking for excessive fidgeting, perspiration, and cold stares by passengers. Supposedly, fifty passengers a day are identified.

We are being tracked and monitored both on the ground and in the air. Our habits, reading material, and reactions are noted and logged, if we bring any kind of attention to ourselves. The knowledge that anything out of the ordinary needs investigation is understandable, but when you are faced with a neurological disorder that can alter your walking, uncontrollable movement and body temperature regulation (both hot and cold), tremor, or balance issues- these physiological reactions are possibly red flags that could bring focus on those of us living with an illness.

Maybe, just maybe, through education and identifying ourselves as people with Parkinson’s and educating TSA agents about facial masking, dyskinesia, bradykinesia, as well as the numerous subtleties that can come with Parkinson’s, might be just what the doctor ordered. Instead of making the TSA wonder what we are going through, we need to create a teachable moment that might just lead to real changes.

People suspect and often fear what they don’t know about. Unless you live with Parkinson’s disease daily and are aware of the wide variety of symptoms and unpredictability of this illness, only through education and extra training will those unfamiliar with neurological disorders come to be educated.

Accept Your Mission! It’s Not Impossible! Focus Your Energy, Wisely!

If you are embarrassed, sad, shamed, or lack self confidence about having Parkinson’s, I am here to tell you that you don’t have the energy or time to devote to such unproductive emotions. Stay strong! You have joined a community of amazing, caring, helpful people who are there to support you and encourage you. Spending time on activities that take you away from being your best will only deplete you more. Choosing to be positive and to be your very best can be a reality and not a mushy platitude!

It is up to you to make the first move. Admitting and succumbing to the realization that you need help is not weakness but new found strength. Helping oneself to learn about how others are surviving and thriving benefits all involved. This generous group of people with Parkinson’s and care partners are ready and willing to share their experiences of what has worked and what needs improving. There are tomes of great advice, educational videos, supportive medical experts, and organizations with helpful support groups and exercise programs! Be aware that your improvement and care all begins with your passion, diligence, and commitment to getting better.

I won’t say that being thrust into the world of Parkinson’s is easy and nor is it your first thought to just accept it and move forward. I had some dark days until I realized that my body, mind, and spirit were in jeopardy. My being is my responsibility. There is plenty of help out there, but you are your greatest resource. Now, build your team!

Parkinson’s is an illness that you do not fight, but work with, work around, and find solutions that work for you. In other words, Parkinson’s takes work! I, like you, am on a constant and continuous hunt for wellness or at the very least, some therapy, drug, exercise, or device to improve my condition. I wish you well!

Mother’s Day 2018

On this, the 8th Mother’s Day without her, I lit a candle and enjoyed her favorite flower in her memory! She encouraged my blogging, my writing, and ultimately my books! I am so grateful for her support!

Words Matter In Medicine–Compassion and Kindness Are 2 To Focus On!

When I was first diagnosed, the neurologist in 1991, coldly and in a matter of fact tone informed me that I had “a reptilian stare”! I don’t know if this is an official piece of medical terminology or the vernacular, but I most assuredly must express my thoughts of using such a crude comparison.

Doctors can be outstanding resources for data gathering and possible new treatments, but often fizzle when it comes to bedside manner, hand-holding, support, thinking outside the box, or just sharing compassion. I know that there are some of them out there and I hope that your doctor or doctors are of the compassionate qualification—but if he or she is not, what do you do?

Here lies the $64,000 question (old reference-sorry), of asking what it is that you expect to receive from your physician and how it is delivered?

Is it so difficult to reach your doctor that you can’t get a 24-hour response? Any response?

Navigating the labyrinth-like phone system of most medical providers is a test of resilience and sheer willpower. I think that it might just be an exercise to see just how committed their patients are to the practice. I would compare calling doctors’ offices a close comparison to my childhood game playing of that ever so frustrating, never-ending game of Chutes and Ladders—almost as annoying as pick up sticks. Ahhhhhhhhh, the good old days.

Some doctors’ offices think that they have joined the 21st century by installing these “portals” that are misnamed, closer to a black hole, are often unread on a timely basis, and overly buggy or confusing to maneuver around—other than my issues, they are great!

I don’t have any insight into defying the complexities of the phone systems or portal projections, but you might express your frustrations to your doctor and any staff who will listen. Be sure and share the good stuff with your doctor’s office as well, when this might happen.

Some Parkinson’s events and sites to make you aware of this #ParkinsonsAwarenessMonth 2018

This, as is every April, is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month—it is a time to learn about an illness that touches millions of lives across the globe. Help spread the word to anyone you know who may have a need for assistance in getting more of an education on the complexities of Parkinson’s disease.

This #ParkinsonsAwarenessMonth there are so many events going on online and locally.  Here are a few of the many Parkinson’s disease related events that I want to point out –there are far too many to mention (check your local community for special events close to you), along with some online resources that I encourage you to visit.

April is Parkinson's Awareness Month

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

April 14, 2018 12pm -5pm
Pints for Parkinson’s – Hosted by Rock Steady NOVA
Tysons Biergarten – Tyson’s Corner, VA
Come out and meet others in the Parkinson’s community along with getting information about Parkinson’s resources in the area.  A portion of the proceeds will go to Parkinson’s non-profit charities.

April 14, 2018- 10am CT
Parkinson Voice Project – Parkinson’s Awareness Month Celebration

Streamed live this Saturday 4/14 at 10:00am (CT) home page and Facebook page
Speaker: Stanley Fahn, MD – Founder of the World Parkinson Coalition
Special performance by: The Intentional Singers

April 16, 2018 11am-1pm
Cafe Alexandria – Parkinson Social Network
The Parkinson Social Network launches their Cafe in Alexandria, Virginia!
Visit https://parkinsonsocialnetwork.org/ for more details and directions.

April 28, 2018
Parkinson’s Unity Walk – Central Park, New York City
24th annual gathering in Central Park to bring awareness to Parkinson’s Disease.

Online Resources 

At ParkinsonsDisease.net, there are 17 Parkinson’s Disease community advocates who share their voices from all parts of the Parkinson’s Disease community. To find the community voice that resonates for you, use this link:  https://parkinsonsdisease.net/community-advocates/

The following are articles that were written for 2 websites that I hope that if you don’t know about that you might now take some time to visit. They are good sources for those dealing with Parkinson’s disease! Education, knowledge, and awareness is so important.

Karl Robb Found a New Purpose Through Parkinson’s – Davis Phinney Foundation

Courtship with a chronic condition: How “20 Questions” led to a 20+ year relationship – PatientsLikeMe

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.

Collaboration with PatientsLikeMe

Karl Robb and Angela RobbI am so excited to announce that Angela and I will be guest blogging for the site, PatientsLikeMe.com. I look forward to sharing stories, insights, and information through my blog posts and joint posts with my wife and partner, Angela. Here’s a link to our first post, a Q&A session: http://bit.ly/2iJb0Ex

If you are unfamiliar with this website, here’s a quick description from the PatientsLikeMe About Us page:

We’ve partnered with 500,000+ people living with 2700+ conditions on 1 mission: to put patients first

Imagine this: a world where people with chronic health conditions get together and share their experiences living with disease. Where newly diagnosed patients can improve their outcomes by connecting with and learning from others who’ve gone before them. Where researchers learn more about what’s working, what’s not, and where the gaps are, so that they can develop new and better treatments.

It’s already happening at PatientsLikeMe. We’re a free website where people can share their health data to track their progress, help others, and change medicine for good.

Community Update – Events and Online Resources

Parkinson’s Awareness

ParkinsonsDisease.net Reaches 10k Likes!

If you follow this blog, you know that I have been actively posting on the new Health Union site, www.ParkinsonsDisease.net. What you may not know is that this site recently made a rapid climb to 10,000 likes! Here’s where you come in—in honor of this success, you have the opportunity to vote for one of the fine charities below to receive a donation, if they win the vote count. Encourage your family and friends to vote as well. Vote today by clicking this link and scrolling to vote in the poll!

  • Parkinson Voice Project
  • Davis Phinney Foundation
  • Parkinson Association of the Rockies
  • Parkinson’s Foundation (National Parkinson Foundation/Parkinson’s Disease Foundation)
  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

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Parkinson Voice Project – Parkinson’s Lecture Series

The Parkinson Voice Project has launched a lecture series which features Parkinson’s experts talking about topics affecting our community. They hold this lecture each month and it’s live streamed for anyone in the world to attend. They also archive previous lectures so you can watch the lectures that are of interest to you. Visit https://www.parkinsonvoiceproject.org/ShowContent.aspx?i=1876 for more information about upcoming lectures and view previous presentations which include lectures on wellness, physical therapy, cognitive challenges, making a Parkinson’s diagnosis, and Deep Brain Stimulation.

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Virginia Education Day – October 7th, 2017
If you live in or near Virginia, I hope to see at the Virginia Education Day in Williamsburg on October 7th, 2017. I am a member of the planning committee. The event is being held at Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center. The Education Day is has a diverse mix of wellness information including presentations by physicians, people with Parkinson’s, caregivers, and allied health professionals. Click this link to see the conference brochure and click here to register for this event.

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Living Well Conference 2017 – Parkinson Foundation, Western Pennsylvania

Join Angela and me in November in Pittsburgh for their Living Well Conference 2017, where we will be presenting and facilitating two breakout sessions. Read this link for all the details. We would love to see you there! We will also be selling and signing our books and audio CD collection at both events—we hope that you can make it!

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