I received an email from someone concerned that they may have the beginnings of Parkinson’s. I have met others with the disease, but not someone wondering if the symptoms they are experiencing are from it.
I keep thinking about him. His worries take me back to the days before my diagnosis, when I was wondering what was going on with my brain and my body. I can relate to what he is going through and can understand it all too well.
He is scared, he tells me. I remember when I was where he is now: scared, uncertain, and desperate for an answer. The right answer. I now see that, even though my future is still uncertain, I was blessed with a wonderful doctor, the support of good friends, and a caring, loving, faithful family.
One of the biggest blessings? I have the opportunity to encourage others. That’s because I am further along on this journey than those just diagnosed. I was unable to see any good in it back then because fear of the future was overwhelming, as was a sense of hopelessness. I am still unable to see the good in it on the hard days. But when my vision and emotions are clear, I can.
In reality, isn’t the future uncertain for all of us, whether we have been diagnosed with a disease or not? None of us knows how things will turn out, when will be the last time we tuck our babies in bed at night, or what diagnosis we may be handed tomorrow.
When I think about this, I remember one of my favorite quotes: “Dance as if no one were watching, sing as if no one were listening, and live every day as if it were to be your last.”
That is how I want to live each day, whether I am fighting Parkinson’s or making peace with it. I want to dance without reserve, even if I stumble. I want to sing at the top of my lungs, even if others think I’m only whispering. And I want to live each day as if it were my last opportunity to do something, even if I am given a tomorrow.
It is hard to live like that, of course. There are so many distractions, so many reminders that our bodies are broken. Despite the distractions and the constant reminders that our bodies are struggling against disease, we can decide to live life to the fullest and enjoy the journey.
I read a tweet the other day about Tom Isaacs, a tireless Parkinson’s advocate. He died several weeks ago, leaving a hole in the community that is fighting for a cure. “The loss of Tom [Isaacs] is felt so keenly because he demonstrated a vitality that many think PD robs one of,” the tweet said. Most would not connect Parkinson’s with vitality, but I think the choice of words was spot on.
Vitality: endurance, stamina, strength, vigor, continuity, exuberance.
The word describes someone who knows how to live life, regardless of the path they’re on. It may not be the journey we would have chosen, but there will be good in it. We can despair over that journey or, like Tom Isaacs, live it with vitality.
It’s always better to wear a face of hope than of despair, I believe. This applies to all of us — but especially to ourselves.