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.
On the morning of this chilly windy Thanksgiving day, I want to express my thanks for the support and sincere gratitude that I feel for the readers around the globe that take the time to read my writings on both this site (asoftvoice.com) and (www.parkinsonsdisease.net). I am so appreciative for family and friends. Gratitude is definitely the word of the day!
Thanksgiving reminds us that the things that we may take for granted and discount as small things in our lives, are really not so little at all. I hope that today is special for you. Please know that as I send this out to you in hope that it brightens your day. I wish you a day full of joy!
Online registration is still open until 9/25 for the 2019 APDA Virginia Education Day being held next Saturday 9/28 (9am-4pm) at the DoubleTree Williamsburg.
Registration is only $25 for this day long event which includes speakers on a variety of important topics including:
-People who have Parkinson’s discussing how they live well with Parkinson’s
-Neurologists discussing how to people can live well with Parkinson’s
-Caregiver discussing tips and tricks
-Exercise panel discussing PWR!, Rock Steady Boxing, Tai Chi. Yoga and BIG
and much more!
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.
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.
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!