The Invisible Reality of Parkinson’s Disease

There's been many stories coming my way lately, regarding the made up scenarios of Parkinson's disease. What I mean is this – some are being told by their spouses or other caregivers that their imagining it all or it's all in their head (no pun intended). Some are going to the doctor, only to have the doctor (not a specialist in PD) tell them – the patient – that they're just going through a phase of depression and eventually, they'll get over it.

Let me tell you a tidbit of my story… At the age of 30 or so, I started having some things go wrong – healthwise. I was getting extremely tired. My eye began being weird. I suppose you could say that was the symptom that got me to the doctor. The eye doctor. Before my eye exam, I explained what was going on. My eye would burn terribly and hurt and then I was seeing these little 'fireball' type objects. I likened them to the fireballs in the Mario Brothers Nintendo games. During an eye exam, my eye doctor slid over to the light switch on his little black stool and flipped the lights on. Something he had never done before. “Has anyone in your family ever had MS?” My heart sank. “No.” At that response, he went down the hall and brought the ophthalmologist back with him. Off went the lights and the ophthalmologist examined my eye (the other doctor was an optometrist. The lights came back on again. “Your optic nerve is hemorrhaging. What your're seeing and is making your eye burn is blood.” According to the two doctors standing there, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Lupus can often begin with what was happening inside my eye. However, there was one other thing it could have possibly been and they immediately had me come back in the morning to have an MRI of my brain done, to make sure it wasn't a brain tumor pushing on my optic nerve. An MRI would also show if there was any build up of myelin on my brain – another symptom of MS. The MRI came back negative for a brain tumor but showed some slight myelin build up – a symptom of MS if the build had been greater. Eventually, they called it Lupus and treated me accordingly for it. Ten years later, I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's disease. The symptoms have been consistent with all I've read about PD. I think they got it right this time around. The point of me telling you 'my' story, is to show you that often times, certain diseases may ravage our bodies and never be seen with the naked eye. No one else could see my eye hemorrhaging and what was causing the awful burning I could feel (and see!). But it was real. And now I have PD, as do so many others who thought they were signing up for one thing, only to find out they were given another. A life of leisure gone wrong. What does PD look like? That all depends. First of all, it is different for everyone who has it. Some may shake uncontrollably – all the time – while others shake less but have terrible back and/or shoulder pain. Some can smell the slightest fragrance, while others bemoan the fact that their sense of smell has disappeared completely. Some sing to strengthen their disappearing voice, while others take speech lessons (or talk to themselves). Some have a difficult time with speech, walking, etc. However, most people don't and most likely won't 'see' this. You won't see the restless legs that keep them awake half the night, pacing the floor to get it to stop. You may miss seeing when your PD person falls and scratches up their forearms and elbows. You won't see them struggle while getting dressed because they want to try to do it themselves just one more time. You won't see how it becomes harder and harder to swallow their medications. The fact is, you won't see a lot symptoms common for PD or MS or Lupus, etc.k, even if they are visible, because you may not really understand the disease or know what to look for. But, the PD patient is fully aware of what is going on inside of them and no one believes them because they can't see it and think they're faking that they have the disease because they badly want attention.. May I ask a favor? Don't dispute what they are trying to tell you or are dealing with. To lose the support of a spouse who thinks you're merely putting on an act can be devastating to the one suffering. If you're in denial over what your spouse has been diagnosed with, seek out a support group for caregivers. Whatever you do, don't push their diagnosis away and pretend nothing's wrong. Believe them or they'll seek support somewhere else. Is that really what you want? And PD person, if you've got a doctor that doesn't believe what you're telling him, get a new doctor.

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