Taking Care of You

I attended a conference on Parkinson’s disease where one of the speakers stated, “Hope is medicine.” In so many ways, that is so true. Fyodor Dostoevsky once said, “To live without hope is to cease to live.” As a Parkinson’s patient, it may be hard at times to feel hopeful.

One of the first symptoms that is often overlooked while Parkinson’s is making its mark on your life can be depression. By the time you are diagnosed, you may feel like your whole world has caved in and diagnosis is like a thousand ton weight of steel that has just landed on top of you as you lay there in a pit of grief.

A hard thing for us to talk about, much less deal with as a people in general, is depression. The difficulty of dealing with it only increases when you have a condition like PD, which can lend itself to making depression one of its star players. It can play a toll in the relationship between the patient and his/her caregiver, especially if we, as the patient, neglect or forget to take our ‘happy’ pills. It is my firm belief that if we are not taking care of ourselves emotionally and mentally, it will be a struggle to care for ourselves physically. When our mind is not functioning well, we tend to look at our disease with a somewhat distorted view, making it even harder to handle. Often, the distorted view only continues in a mental downward spiral.

If you’re struggling to find anything good in living with Parkinson’s, is it from viewing life with an outlook of despair and hopelessness? Do you think you may be someone who would benefit from an anti-depressant? Let me be clear – this is nothing to be ashamed of. Having PD is real and so is the depression that can come with it. I have told my husband (my caregiver) he has my permission to ask (when I feel like giving up in life) whether I’ve missed a dose of my meds. I can, within two missed doses, go from having a good day to wanting it all to end. It’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to care for yourself when your desire to keep going is all but gone. However, when your desire to live your life to the fullest is there, in spite of PD, this life can be a a pretty wonderful thing.

How can a life with Parkinson’s disease be a wonderful thing? As with any disease, it makes you take a different view of life. Your life, in particular. Where you may have once thought of yourself as insignificant, worthless, unimportant or any of those lies we tend to feed ourselves, you may now realize that you are of value. Why else would you be seeking out a doctor’s care? A support group? Because you matter. You may not have worked through the whys or the hows but somewhere, consciously or not, you have realized that your life means something.

Because your life matters, your quality of life should matter to the fullest extent in which you are capable. For example, if you can offer some time to one less fortunate – reading to a hospital patient, listening to a homebound veteran tell of his experinces – do it. Doing activities like this can often remind us that things could always be worse and how good it feels to be able to help another.

If you can sing, sing out loud. It’s good for the heart and for those with PD – it’s good for the voice.

If you love to do artsy things, don’t stop because someone told you have PD. If you have to change to a different art form, change. Just don’t quit.

Walk, if you can. This is good for the muscles, good for your heart, good for the spirit. If only intentionally around the house, walk.

Talk to someone. When we feel like a burden, we can often shut down. This is when I find it most hard to open up and when I find it most needful to do it. Let them remind you of the truth – you  matter. They’ll remind you that you are here for a reason and gently ask, “By the way, did you take your happy pill today?”

Living with Parkinson’s disease is downright hard. It’s a day to day battle of pain, a fight for control, and an acceptance of the unwanted. It’s learning how to live a new normal while everyone else continues with the familiar. It’s learning to realize you matter and there’s a reason you were chosen to carry this load, to walk this path. So, while on this journey they call Parkinson’s disease, take care of you. Take good care of you.

And don’t forget to take your happy pills.

If you’re reading this…
Congratulations, you’re alive.
If that’s not something to smile about,
then I don’t know what is.”

Chad Sugg, Monsters Under Your Head

Originally published 12/2016

What Are the Odds of Developing Parkinson’s Disease?

Art by Sherri Woodbridge
Copyright 2012

I have been asked this question over and over and while I am no Professor Parkinson, I did do some research this is what I came up with

Lighter colored hair.  Yes, that’s right.  A person with black hair has the best chance of escaping a diagnosis of PD than that of a person with red or blonde hair, red being the greatest chance.  I don’t think dyed hair counts.

Family history.  Hereditary factors/genetics can play a part.  If you have a close relative who has Parkinson’s disease (such as a parent/sibling) your chances increase.

Men tend to be more at risk than women for unknown reasons. However, this fact can also depend on what country you live in.

If you are over the age of sixty, the likelihood of developing PD is greater. However, there are a select few rare known cases of PD starting at the age of two.

The Amish community seems to have the highest rate of PD among any other communities. It is thought that the culprit may be all the pesticides used in their farming.  Which leads to… Exposure to toxins playing a large part in some PD cases as well as those individuals who relied on well water for drinking and cooking.  This is due to the chemicals/pesticides found in the water. It is said that Nebraska has the highest rate of PD in the United States, most likely due to the pesticides used in their farming, as well.

Trauma to the head may play a role as damage is done to the dopamine that producing neurons in the brain.  If you were one to bang your head against the wall in frustration, well… you shouldn’t have.

Manganese, a known cause of Parkinson’s if the concentrations are high enough, is found in a town in Italy.  The concentrations there are high enough and approximately 410 out of 100,000 people have been diagnosed with PD.

Ethnicity has been studied, showing Caucasians have greater odds over African Americans.

Illicit drugs use may be a factor as the drugs have a bulls-eye target for the dopamine producing neurons inside the brain.

Studies have shown that PD is much more prevalent amongst welders, significantly higher amongst physicians, dentists, teachers, lawyers, scientists, computer programmers (young onset PD diagnosis greater for this group), clerical occupations, agricultural workers, hunting and forestry occupations were also positively associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Those people involved in manufacturing and transportation were less likely to get Parkinson’s Disease.

So… what does this all mean?  Here it is:

If you are a welder, physician, dentist, teacher, lawyer, scientist, computer programmer, person involved in clerical work, agricultural worker, hunting and forestry vocation person, and…  have a family history of PD, are male, are over 60, Amish and are growing manganese plants as a hobby; if you are Caucasian, take illicit drugs, banged your head against a wall, live in Nebraska, have red hair and a family history of PD, then chances are – you MIGHT get PD.  Then again, it depends on which country you live in, too.

Another interesting tidbit?  Those involved in the manufacturing and transportation fields were less likely to get PD.  Caffeine and smoking are said to help prevent PD.

I wouldn’t quit my welding job to pilot a jet, leave the Amish community, or move from Nebraska and take up smoking.  There are reasons, yes, why people get PD, even if we haven’t really pinpointed the specific culprit yet.  However, ultimately, because of God’s sovereignty, things are going to play out as He sees fit, whether we have black hair or polka dot hair, work in the forest or teach geometry, are male or female, Amish or Mennonite, prefer chocolate over strawberry ice cream.  And, if He sees fit to give us this disease, well then, He’s got to have a pretty good reason that I may never know or understand.  So, if you fit this category – just a normal person with Parkinson’s disease – don’t give up.  We’re all in this together and it doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, what you do or if you prefer strawberry or chocoate – we will get through.  However, might I say?  Why the chocolate, of course. Always the chocolate.

Journeying with you ~ Sherri

Purses, Purses, Everywhere and Yet…

I received a question from a reader a while ago and I have been negligent in responding in a timely manner but here goes. She asked…

“My mom gets very frustrated with her purse! Has tried several but has a problem finding and gripping the items to get them out. Is there anyone out there that has found a parkinsons friendly purse?”

Any comments? Inquiring minds want to know…

Comments received thus far in response to this inquiry:

“I understand!
First, I use a purse with a crossbody strap so that I can use both hands to get things in and out of my bag.
I had my husband attach a key ring strap to my wallet to make it easier to find it and remove it from my purse.
I also avoid multiple compartments and I only put the bare necessities in my bag.
Eager to hear other ideas! – Sheri C.”

I agree! Crossbody strap is a lifesaver; key ring is very, very helpful and no unnecessary compartments. And only what is really needful. – sherri