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.
Last Saturday, my wife, Angela and I had the great privilege to address over 300 people with Parkinson’s and their carepartners/caregivers in beautiful and historic Williamsburg, VA at the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) Virginia Education Day. This event was hosted by the APDA Hampton Roads Chapter and the APDA Richmond Metro Chapter.
Angela and I participated in a couples talk with Charlie and Cammy Bryan, who are well known for their state-wide work, writing and advocacy. We really enjoyed working with them! The moderator, Don Bradway, knows both couples and did a masterful job of getting us to talk about our lives, perspectives on Parkinson’s disease, and our philosophy on living well with Parkinson’s. We got to meet so many amazing people who are living well with Parkinson’s!
Neurologists from around Virginia did an informative panel on understanding, managing, and living with Parkinson’s disease. My friend and fellow advocate, Bob Pearson did a talk with a neurologist on the importance of clinical trials and his experiences in participating in these studies. A clinical dietitian, Ms. Ka Wong from Hunter Holmes McGuire Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in Richmond did a very informative talk on inflammation and diet.
The final breakout, held concurrently with the caregiving session, was a panel introduction to the benefits of a variety of therapies including PWR!, Rock Steady Boxing, Yoga, LSVT/BIG and SPEAKOUT!, and Tai Chi! My wife attended the caregiver session which was a panel discussion with three family caregivers. This panel shared their experiences on a variety of caregiver issues, provided informational tips and offered resources.
What was unique about this conference was the variety of people sharing their knowledge with our Parkinson’s community – those living with Parkinson’s, the medical community, allied health professionals and more. This event happens every other year and brings Virginia’s Parkinson’s community together to review the developments in Parkinson’s disease, to inform, to inspire, and to educate.
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!
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.
This was my first blog post 10 years ago–slightly updated!
When I was first diagnosed at the age of 23, I have to admit, the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease (PD )came as a relief. What I had convinced myself was a terminally malignant brain tumor was a chronic neurological deficiency of the neurotransmitter, Dopamine–that didn’t sound as bad. Sure, PD can be degenerative and rarely do people with PD get better, over time–but I will say I haven’t changed my medication for several years. I am lucky and fortunate that my symptoms show a slow progression.
We expect our loved ones, friends, associates, and colleagues to understand our struggle with this difficult ailment. Parkinson’s challenges us all in different ways. Rarely, if ever, do two PD patients share the exact same symptoms. Those who are healthy and untouched by PD are incapable of understanding what it is that we endure with this mysterious and troubling disease. As much as we would like for those who are close to us to understand what it is that we are going through, it just isn’t possible.
Even if we live or work with someone on a daily basis, there is only so much that we are capable of understanding about what it is that they are going through. The best that we can do for any one is to be present, understanding, compassionate, and supportive. Supportive doesn’t mean that you can’t encourage better living and reminding those who you care about to exercise, eat healthier, and to get proper rest.
I’d like to know about your experience with PD. I plan to address issues facing PD patients like doctors, resources, medicines, cooperative medicine, health ideas, what works and doesn’t , Support Groups, PD Conferences, etc.
I hope you find this interesting and helpful.
I recently joined a Rock Steady Boxing class! The class and the instructor are wonderful! If you have Parkinson’s disease and haven’t tried the Rock Steady Boxing program, I encourage you to find the nearest program in your area. The camaraderie and encouragement amongst the participants is uplifting and inspiring.
The workout is tough, lively, active, loud, motivating, and rewarding. I hate to admit it, but I am getting older. I’m rediscovering muscles that I have not used for a good while. For an hour and a half, the boxers either move through a series of exercise stations made up of quick thinking and moving games, flexibility or core exercises, many of them borrowed from yoga focusing on balance, strength, posture, and mobility. The program is flourishing, as it should. It’s novel, fresh, and effective! This program does something amazing—it makes working out fun again, for me.
Rock Steady Boxing NOVA has been an experience that I did not expect! The whole class has bonded and become a unified group. Everyone supports the other and encourages their fellow boxers. Our coach and leader, Alec, is a charismatic and inspired young man who really strives to make improvements in our class’s lives.
My first two classes, the workouts kicked my butt! I am happy to say that I can see an improvement in my strength, balance, and overall fitness. Rock Steady Boxing is a welcomed break in my day and week. I see the boxing as a moving meditation. It is a break that I look forward to, as well as seeing my boxing friends and putting on the gloves. I think this program builds your confidence as much as your body. Rock Steady Boxing is like a fast-paced support group that makes you sweat.
If you are looking for an opportunity to get a great workout, build some muscle, make some new friends, and pound some punching-bags, then I encourage you to try Rock Steady Boxing in your area to see if it’s right for you!
The Magic isn’t gone, but it is fading fast. The art of magic will never die, but it may become blurred, as new technology replaces the beauty and purity of performance magic. Live magic is just that—it’s magical. When performed correctly and the magician has done his job, the participant feels that the impossible is, possible. Some magicians embarrass or make their audience feel stupidly duped. The magician is meant to impress but not to break the bond between audience and performer. Magic is for everyone: young or old, there is a place to appreciate the grace and fluidity of sleight-of-hand. One should appreciate the trickery of the eyes and misdirection. Cleverness is worth recognition!
The sad reality is that the neighborhood magic store has rapidly gone away for good, only to be replaced by the video game. This dying art has a long history, reaching back to ancient Egypt and possibly even longer. To lose the joy that this art has sprung on so many, and for so long truly is a tragedy, indeed.
I hope that as generations and technology continue to evolve, that the creative minds of those drawn to magic can continue to update and improve upon the wonders of magic. Magic can be reinvented and re-introduced to new audiences in novel ways as materials and new innovations appear.
I have written about the benefit of video games and Parkinson’s disease, but had a deficit of articles on the benefits of performing and practicing magic. I think that aside of the many years of enjoyment of entertaining myself and an occasional audience, magic has given me numerous gifts that I will quantify:
-Magic makes you think in order and organized linear steps.
-Magic forces the performer to communicate, socialize, and be more outgoing.
-Magic helps improve eye-hand coordination and joint flexibility.
-Magic is universal. Magic is entertaining. Magic is sheer fun.
-Magic doesn’t feel like therapy, but maybe it is!
Walt Disney is quoted to have said, “It is fun to do the impossible!” Magic is about making the impossible, possible, even if it’s just for a moment.
I 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.
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
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.
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.
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!