For the next 12 days, I will be offering some words of thought and inspiration on a daily basis. I hope that you enjoy it!
Heroes come in and out of our lives, often unrecognized and frequently under appreciated. On Monday, it struck me just how important heroes are and the amazing power that comes in looking up to a higher standard. Heroes make us better people. They give us something to aspire to and to be. Heroes inspire us to be more and to achieve more than we might, without them.
I was so struck with shock and sadness to learn of the death of Marvel Comics’ founder and genius, Stan Lee. His biography is almost as amazing as the prolific cadre of characters that he brought to life. There is no repaying the numerous gifts that he has given us, as well as the hours and hours of pleasure, excitement, and joy. As a lover of anything and everything Spider-Man, I would religiously watch those cartoons every weekday at 3: 00.PM, after school.
Spider-Man didn’t ask to be given his special abilities, they were thrust upon him and he made the most of what he could do with his unique gifts. Those of us who have Parkinson’s are in a not so different place, in that having this illness makes one hone, uncover, and expand our own powers. We didn’t ask for Parkinson’s disease to come in to our world, but just like Peter Parker, we incorporate those dramatic alterations and deal with them to the best of our abilities.
I have seen Parkinson’s bring out the best in many people. This illness, as awful as it is, can reveal sides of people that you’ve never seen before. From creativity, to artistic ability, to writing or other revealing abilities, sometimes, out of hardship comes new talents and new strengths.
I didn’t know early in my life that I was going to write books and blogs on Parkinson’s disease. It was Parkinson’s disease that caused me to share my journey of over thirty years with those who may be wondering how to navigate the terrain that I have already walked on. Like, Peter Parker, I have learned and adapted.
Heroes keep us upright and moving forward. They remind us that there is still good in the world, when we need it most. Stan Lee’s iconic heroes will most likely never be duplicated, but thankfully, his gifts of brilliance will live on and on.
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!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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!
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!
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.