April is a week away. It’s the month set aside for Parkinson’s Awareness. Most of my posts are devotions or updates on my books, but every year, I veer from the normal to talk about PD. Parkinson’s is the second most prevalent neuro-degenerative disease, only surpassed by Alzheimer’s. Let me start by sharing my battle.
In 2012, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The diagnosis was no surprise. By the time I found myself in the neurologist’s office, I knew something was wrong. It began, as most PD does, with tremors. Mine were right-side specific in my hand and foot. I attributed it to stress.
When I fell five times in the course of a year and a half, I had an excuse for each fall. I walked from the mailbox reading my mail and misjudged the step landing on brick and concrete. Twice, student book bags with wheels tripped me. Once I walked into my sister’s home carrying supplies and fell on her step. My head met the glass storm door, breaking the fall. I can assure you that one hurt! The fifth occurrence happened when my foot tangled with the leg of a chair. I managed to rationalize each fall.
The point came when I could no longer deny that something was wrong with my body. When the diagnosis came, I learned many things that collectively could have been a warning, had I known.
- Cross-body movements: I learned that people with PD don’t move with the same synchrony. Most people swing arms when they walk. This occurs without thought. Arms swing opposite leg movement. Right leg forward, left arm forward. Some neuro-connection is lost when dopamine is diminished. I attempt to make this cross-body adjustment, starting a walk with deliberate movements, but within steps, I fall out of sync.
- Softness of voice: Volume will come and go without warning.
- Constipation: Severe (enough said)
- Diminished sense of smell: PD effects the olfactory receptors.
- Muscle rigidity: When I found myself in any situation where someone touched my back or neck (doctor, PT, etc.) they typically said, “Try to relax.” I didn’t get it because rigid was my normal.
- Freezing: No, this doesn’t mean body temperature. It refers to an inability to put the next foot forward when walking.
- Shuffled movements: I didn’t realize that my foot had a slight drag, thus the falls. I proved gravity well.
- Hallucinations: Fortunately, I haven’t experienced these, as some of my colleagues have. Instead, I have a propensity toward nightmares, which has greatly impacted my TV and reading choices. No crime shows. No thrillers.
Exercise is medicine. That’s true for all people, but especially for those battling the symptoms of PD. Much research shows the link between exercise and neurological health. My choice of exercise is through a group called Rock Steady Boxing. It’s specific to people with Parkinson’s and designed for their unique needs.
The good news is this. Once medicated properly, my tremors were greatly reduced; I’ve had no falls; my symptoms have had minimal progression, and I can still type fluidly. That’s not the case with many folks suffering with PD. I see new friends in this culture who have progressed to a debilitating level in a span of three years. I’ve been in the Rock Steady program for about 22 months. During that time, from a class that typically has no more than twenty people, we’ve lost five to this disease. I share this so I can properly communicate the need for research and support.
Here’s how you can help:
- Pray that I travel this journey with grace, seeking my strength from the only true source, and looking for ways that God can use my experience for His glory.
- Parkinson’s Research Foundation https://parkinsonhope.org/ways-donate/ 100% of my proceeds from The Least of These book sales from today through the month of April will be donated to Parkinson’s Research Foundation. Just purchase a copy of The Least of These, print or digital, and when I receive my sales report, I’ll forward 100% of my earnings to this organization. You’ll find the buy link under the tab “BOOKS” on this website.
- GAPS – Greenville Area Parkinson’s Society https://www.gapsonline.org/events/ GAPS is an organization in the Greenville area. They provide informational programs, exercise opportunities, and support groups. GAPS is 100% locally funded. I’ll be walking at Fluor Field in the Strike Out Parkinson’s fundraiser. We hope to raise $100,000 for this worthy organization. Here is a link if you are able to support me. Mention my name and help our Rock Steady Team reach their donation goal.
UPDATE: This blog was drafted before we ever heard the word “Coronavirus.” The walk-a-thon is typically in April, but due to the current situation, we will walk as soon as it is safe to do so. While your support is appreciated, with so many people in financial hardship, I encourage you to look to those with immediate needs first. If you do desire to purchase The Least of These to support PD research, you can order directly from the publisher at http://pelicanbookgroup.com/ if Amazon is not able to ship books during this crisis,
- Here is a link to our 2019 Strike Out Parkinson’s walk. Our team is easy to notice in our bright neon yellow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjVMa5I4K4o
Stay safe and healthy. Blessings to you/