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.
Angela and I have been contributing articles to ParkinsonsDisease.net for almost two years. Health Union (HU)’s mission is to inspire people to live better with challenging health conditions. The HU Living With podcast this week is from an interview we did last year at their headquarters.
You can find the podcast on:
Google Play: https://play.google.com/music/listen?u=0#/ps/Iaandgaawrsjynbewo2pcy6gnt4
Spotify: search for Living With
Google Play: https://play.google.com/music/listen?u=0#/ps/Iaandgaawrsjynbewo2pcy6gnt4
Spotify: search for Living With
In this podcast, we discuss relationships, living well with Parkinson’s disease, and a few tidbits that we have learned. Angela and Karl Robb have been married over 20 years and Karl has had Parkinson’s disease for over 30 years. Hear their outlook on illness and keeping positive.
As much as Parkinson’s disease tests my day, it does not define my existence. My illness is a part of me, much like my hair color and my bushy eyebrows. It is always with me, but I do not embrace it– nor do I curse it—it just is.
The luxury of time and slow mild progression, if any, has allowed me to use Parkinson’s as a platform. For over ten years, the three-hundred plus blog posts in my archive of blog posts on www.asoftvoice.com continues to be a resource for information seekers.
What was once a straight-forward blog devoted to Parkinson’s disease encouragement suddenly evolved into a somewhat popular published book in 2012, A Soft Voice in a Noisy World: A Guide to Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s Disease, became a reality. For a self-published non-fiction book by a first-time author, the book was surprisingly well-received and graciously promoted by members of the Parkinson’s community. In 2016, our workbook, Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s Disease and Other Health Conditions was released for anyone looking to make changes in their life (with or without Parkinson’s disease).
I would be remiss, incomplete, and a narcissist, if I failed to bring attention to the woman behind me and the driving inspiration that keeps me in some semblance of alignment. My wife, life-partner, carepartner, best friend, soul mate, and confidante, Angela made both books a priority and brought them to life. Her fortitude, dedication, and patience throughout the book editing process as well as our twenty-two years of marriage is a tribute to her angelic nature and ebullient spirit. She is the gift of a life-time! Michael J. Fox claims to be a lucky man, but I am far luckier.
The encouragement, love, and reassurance from the Parkinson’s community is a vital incentive and pillar to my strength and motivation to the continuation of my blog posts, lectures, future books, and upcoming surprises to come in the coming weeks, and the new year.
Many thanks to my loyal readers, the newly joined and those who have followed me for all these years! I appreciate you reading and sharing my words.
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.
Today, of all days is the perfect time to discuss the subject of change. Today, in the United States, millions of voters will have the opportunity to let their voices be heard with a single vote to impact their government. Millions of dollars will have been spent in campaign advertising to insult their opponent, praise or question the current or past administration, or just be terribly annoying, until the next election.
I, for one, cannot wait to see these divisive, bitter, mudslinging, name-calling, unbecoming, childish, messages turn into vapor and return to the barrage of those amusing pharmaceutical ads that we all enjoy at breakfast and dinner time.
If just a small percentage of this political advertising bounty were used to inform the public about the needs of the Parkinson’s world, we could educate the planet on identifying, treating, and caring for patients far earlier in their treatment and improving their care for a disease that has no cure. What could be a more noble use of funds than educating the masses about an illness that is so misunderstood and so poorly explored publicly?
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological disorder in America with an estimated 6 million cases worldwide and approximately 1-1.5 million people in the United States. Even these numbers are suspect for lack of updating and availability to necessary data for making better estimates. For as far as we have come over the 52 years of my life and the 30 years that I have lived with Parkinson’s disease, I see a need for a similar buzz for change, much like the excitement that is in the air on this election day and eve.
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!
Rigidity in thought and body may go hand in hand. Rigidity can be many people’s main complaint when they are first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Keeping active, moving, exercise, and stretching are just a few of the tools to keep in mind when your body starts to stiffen up.
As we age, it gets easier and easier to become so convinced that there is only one way to do something. When we get to this mentality that there is only one correct answer, we may be shorting ourselves of new pathways and seeking new alternatives. The sooner that we accept the way we used to do a certain task may have changed, the sooner we can create a plan to identify and try a new method. Flexibility in body, mind, and attitude are necessary when considering what it is you want to tweak with your illness. Sometimes, it may take a slight increase in medication to improve your on-time and reduce symptoms of the disease. Sometimes, thinking outside the usual structure of traditional medicine can be fruitful.
Had I not incorporated reiki, massage, meditation, qigong, yoga, exercise, and reflexology, all in to my life, I honestly don’t know where I’d be. I can tell you this, at first, I was not a believer. It took a leap of faith and necessity to get there. Had I not gone outside my comfort zone, I would never have benefited from these various therapies
For those who question the true benefits of complementary therapies, I ask this: Don’t you think that these therapies might have some merit if they’ve been around for hundreds to thousands of years? Is skepticism holding you back from trying something new? Is it time? Is it money? What holds you back from exploring new options of helping yourself?
Adding a new practice, therapy, or routine to your health regimen takes some investigation, research, and commitment. Keeping positive and remaining hopeful are beneficial in whatever you choose to try.
Depending upon your choice of therapy, it may be important to confirm with your physician, neurologist, or specialist, just to be safe. I am not a doctor! I am a Parkinson’s patient of over 30 years that can declare benefit and relief from these therapies.
This was created in May 2014, but I thought it was worthy of another appearance.
Here are some Tips for Staying Positive and Proactive:
Take care of yourself. The more you know about Parkinson’s, the better. You play the key role in your own health. Seek out therapies/modalities that work for you. Accepting your illness does not mean giving up.
Appreciate the good in every day. Focus on what you can do! Do not focus on what you can’t do! Savor and appreciate everything.
Stay flexible in all ways. A rigid pole often tends to break in the wind. A flexible pole will bend and give in the wind. Being more flexible will add a new dimension to your life.
A person with a good attitude is much easier to be around and is good for our well-being.
Being positive is a choice! When we label everything “good” or “bad”, we lose sight that we cannot savor one without the other. You cannot have the sweet without the bitter. This is life!
Explore the stressors in your daily life. Find an outlet to help you release your stress.
Procrastination, denial, fear, and apathy only delay the opportunity to begin our own self care. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.
If you don’t laugh every day, start! Laughter has all kinds of health benefits. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t stop laughing!
Plan ahead for what you can and be aware and engaged. Always have a plan B, C, or more.
The best exercise or activity is the one that you like and you are willing to do. If Parkinson’s prohibits us from doing something we love, then we must find a replacement for that activity.