A figure from the corner of the lot was moving slowly in that particular shuffle that is undeniably Parkinson’s. I joined her to walk the distance to the entrance of our YMCA. She had the frozen features, was entirely stiff and not swinging her arms at all. If my eye were untrained, she’d appear inebriated or as the victim of a stroke perhaps, as her balance and speech were also off. This 82 year old woman always arrived and worked out and left alone, but she was in tremendous shape, and after she mentioned she has Parkinson’s I couldn’t help it...
“But you’re so young! I’d never have known!”
“I get that a lot. Are you on medication?”
“Oh no, my doctor at Kaiser said they have awful side effects.”
I paused here, incredulous and slightly annoyed with her PCP (not a movement specialist) this severely crippled state was apparently one of her best days.
“Would you let me show you the patch I’m wearing and talk to you a little bit about carbo levodopa or other options sometime?”
“Oh I would really like that because some days I can’t get out of bed and just stay home to read, but nothing hurts and I’m feeling fine, just fine. I usually just use a walker or my chair.”
“Do you ever feel depressed?”
“No, that’s ridiculous!”
It is my unscientific observation that older generations lived more in-service and complaining was off limits, but not every PwP feels depression or even heightened anxiety. This is one tricky and confusing condition! I cannot stress how important it is to find the right team of doctors. Yes, a team- one that explores alternative methods of healing and balancing. I try just about everything to manage this beast- for me and for everyone around me feeling it’s residual effects.
As any PwP can attest, diet and exercise remain the best medicine. See #rocksteadyboxing or dance or meditation as a start. You can do more than you think.
As she hobbled up the stairs shaking, the dainty octogenarian paused to mention that she didn’t need any help (shocker). It’s highly unlikely I’ll live as long, but my intention is to live well and with intensity and highest intention, because all we have is right now. No one can do this alone. Those bi-yearly 15 minute doctors appointments only help so much. The information from support groups and bloggers and organizations dedicated to raising awareness help us live better, and with less terror.
Stay active- in community and with your body. The more you can move and connect, the easier an incurable, degenerative and progressive brain disease is to manage.
Inspired by the lovely 82 year old at my YMCA.