Parkinson’s’ Game of Life

Do you ever feel like you can’t win? That life really is a game and you’re on a roll of striking out every time you get up to bat?

You’re like the kid who, standing at home plate, is quickly scanning the bleachers to see if his support has arrived – mom, dad, Uncle Joey, Grandpa Elmore… someone – only to find no one is there to cheer him on. He strikes out again. If there had been someone to cheer, someone to say, “Come on Bud – you can do it!” maybe things would have gone differently.

Yet, once again, the bat is dropped at home plate and you go and sit back on the bench and wait for the next round, peering around the cement wall in hopes of discovering that maybe you missed seeing them – someone who was there just for you.

I often catch myself muttering, “I can’t win”, as I play this game called “Life with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease“. You wake up feeling fairly good, shuffle to the closet to find something to wear, shower, dress, take your morning cocktail of Sinemet, Azilect, Vitamins, Aricept, Amantadine, Artane, Lexapro… I’m missing something here.

After you’ve swallowed the last one and eat something to coat all the drugs inside your stomach, someone asks why you’re so grumpy. You haven’t even said anything. You haven’t even done anything but take a handful of pills. Is it the lack of facial expression? The lack of conversation as you concentrate downing $50 or more worth of drugs in one gulp so you don’t have to taste each one separately?

Good morning – you are already playing another round of the Game of Life.  You haven’t even had a turn and already you’re losing.

Have you ever noticed there are different ways to strike out in a game of baseball?

You can swing at every pitch and miss each one. You can swing at one pitch and let the other two whiz by, only to find out they were perfect but you were waiting for something better. There are several combinations in a baseball game in which to strike out.

However, if I am going to strike out in a game, especially the game of ‘My Life’, I want to do it because I swing at every pitch. I don’t want to ‘lose’ knowing I just stood still and took every pitch without even trying to hit it. I don’t want to lose because I missed even one pitch.

I want to swing at them all.

Sometimes swinging at the ball looks different in the ‘Parkinson’s Game of Life’. For example, instead of swinging at a hard, white ball, it can look like this:

You keep your head up when others think you’re down because you’re not smiling and showing your coffee-stained molers.  You refuse to allow their suggestive opinions to become how you live that day. Remember… they forget that you don’t control the muscles in your face anymore. Parkinson’s, the new team captain, does.

You ignore their sense of humor which mocks what is becoming realistic limitations in your body because of your new captain. Remember… they really don’t understand what’s going on inside of you.

You look in the mirror and smile. You can still smile.  At least you recognize that smile.

You tell yourself you’re free. You have Parkinson’s disease and while it’s in you, it doesn’t ‘have’ you.  You are still captain and you’ve decided it’s going to stay that way.

You look around cement walls in your life and realize, your fans are there -front row in the bleachers, cheering you on as you face the pitcher.

You stand there, ready for the next pitch. You realize if it hits you, it could knock you down, maybe even knock you out. If you think it’s a ‘ball’ and ends up a strike, you’ve got two chances left to get it right. If you foul it upward and someone catches it, you’re going to be out immediately. If you swing and hit it, you’ve got to run like the dickens to get to first base before an attempt is made to get you out of the game another way. If you don’t swing at all – you’re out.

With PD, we’re up to bat all day long. Balls are flying straight at us all day. We can ask to forfeit and give up or we can play the game. If we’re going to play, then we’ve got to do it standing ready at the plate, hands firmly gripped around the bat as best we can (and that dystonia and cramping can hurt like heck when we hold tight), eyes on the ball. The pitcher will wind up and give us his best shot.

Now, swing. Swing with all of your might and with all of your heart and with all of your strength. Chances are, even if you get a few strikes, a few balls, a few fouls, or even knocked over by a fast, hard pitch that you didn’t see coming, one day you’re going to hit that ball called Parkinson’s disease or Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis or… You’re going to hit it dead center and send it flying. Your fans will be cheering you on as you shuffle or walk or run around the bases.

It’s not too often we send a ball flying in the PD game of life, so I would suggest you walk the bases and enjoy every step. Bask in the moment and listen to the crowd roar. These moments are what make playing the game worth it.

Journeying with you,

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