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Courage in the Face of Fear

my way, courage

We all fear something. Some of us fear death. Some of us fear being left alone. Others have a fear of failure. This journey we are on can be full of treks through deep, dark forests, roads full of potholes, and mountains we must climb.

When I hear the word fear, I almost always think of Psalm 23. It is one of the Bible verses kids learn early on in Sunday school. It talks about not fearing what might come: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” I will not fear.

The shadow of death

What is “walking through the valley of the shadow of death?” I think the shadow of death is anything that casts darkness over our lives. Surgeries, chronic diseases, and heart problems can fall under the shadow of death. The list could also include a dying marriage or a wayward child. Walking in a dark valley can bring a fear to fruition, leaving us to experience undue anxiety, an agitated spirit, and feelings of desperation.

Parkinson’s disease has a way of causing us to fear. But there is a way to deflect it.

When fear immobilizes us, faith can overcome that fear and give us much-needed courage. Faith speaks to our hearts, telling us a better day is coming. Faith walks with us through the valleys, shining a light ahead so our hope does not fail. It keeps us walking when we feel like collapsing and giving up.

Hope

Fear loses its power when we take a deep breath of courage and keep moving forward, refusing to give in. Courage can stand and fight when fear breathes down its neck. Courage faces diseases and refuses to stand down.

Courage refuses to give up. Courage is a state of mind that embraces the here and now and holds out for hope. I have seen people with Parkinson’s disease embrace it with both hands, determined to make the best of it. Do they have a secret that allows them immunity over the fear of Parkinson’s or any other illness? 

No. Instead, they have chosen to ax the fear and live courageously with unrelenting hope. A hope that speaks to their spirit and gives them courage as they choose to believe that change is coming. A hope that says change is possible.

Take heart

When the fear ogre comes to tamper with your courage, know that you have a band of comrades standing (or sitting) with you on the front lines. They are ready to do battle on your behalf.

You may feel as if the load you carry is unbearable. You may wonder whether you will make it another day with the pain and stiffness, the immobility, and more. Embrace the courage within you — no matter how small it may seem — and grab hold of the hope it offers. And don’t let go.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post Courage in the Face of Fear appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Empathy Is One Thing, but Apathy Is Quite Another

Empathy and apathy

Two words are often confused with each other in the English language: empathy and apathy. Not only are their meanings different, but they are also quite at opposition with each other. Both terms, however, can relate to Parkinson’s disease.

Empathy deals with being able to understand the thoughts and feelings of others. People with Parkinson’s are empathetic toward other people with the disease because they can understand and relate personally to what they are experiencing. A caregiver can empathize with another caregiver.

Apathy is a whole different ballgame. 

Apathy is not caring about much of anything in life. 

To take it a step further, I once heard someone put it this way: Apathy is not caring about whether or not you care.

It is easy to become apathetic when living and struggling with a chronic illness such as Parkinson’s disease. You may begin to notice that you don’t have the energy to do much of anything, nor do you have the motivation to want to do anything. You don’t have the stamina. With Parkinson’s, it’s easy to feel your staying power begin to fizzle away and your stick-to-itiveness begin to unstick. You feel like quitting. Nothing seems to hold meaning or purpose for you any longer. 

Other people with Parkinson’s would empathize with how you feel. They would understand your lack of motivation, for it can come with the disease. Apathy eats away at you, until getting out of bed, off the couch, or out the door is as tough for a person with Parkinson’s as it is for them to tie their own shoes or button their own shirt. And we know how difficult those things can be! Apathy, however, is even more difficult to deal with. You just quit caring, but not because you want to. 

Apathy sneaks in and tries to rob you of your joy, your motivation, your everything.

Should you begin to notice the signs of apathy in yourself or in a loved one with Parkinson’s disease, it is extremely important that you take measures to deal with it, as it can easily become a downward spiral that can be difficult to stop. Force yourself to get up and get out. Ask a friend to come over. Take a walk. Visit an animal shelter and find a new friend. Talk to your doctor as soon as you can. 

Don’t wait to bring the issue out into the open with someone you trust. Life’s too short to let what you have left slip away to yet another symptom of this chronic disease.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Making Sense of the Senseless

senseless

When I was in high school, I followed the written journey of a classmate who was diagnosed with leukemia. Miles Levin struggled to comprehend a senseless battle through the exploration of words. He wore the armor of someone who was too young to fight cancer when he wrote, “Dying is not what scares me; it’s dying having had no impact.”

After a valiant fight, Miles died shortly after graduating from high school, leaving a trail of words behind him. At the time, I had no idea that his story would inspire a chapter of my life. Despite a heartbreaking diagnosis, he found a way to have the impact he desired.

‘Keep Fighting, Stop Struggling’

His thoughts reached far into the future, moving those who outlived him. Years later, Miles’ father compiled his son’s final words and bound them into a book titled “Keep Fighting, Stop Struggling: The Miles Levin Story.”

Miles’ story was the first written journey I followed. I wanted to understand how you could pour your pain into words so you wouldn’t have to carry it around anymore. Nearly 12 years later, I find myself asking the same questions I asked throughout his odyssey. But this time, I’m watching Parkinson’s disease overtake my dad like an evil villain in a Marvel movie.

My childhood hero has Parkinson’s. An invincible father of six meets kryptonite. The man who held my hand when I crossed the street and took me to the ER when I had pneumonia is battling a degenerative disease. And I wonder if whisking sentences together might help us make sense of the senseless.

Exploring illness through words

Today, I write because I love someone who struggles with loss daily. I write because I want to see the world from my dad’s eyes, shaking the illness until pocket change falls out. And I write because I want to understand the tidbits of information that only someone with Parkinson’s can taste.

Seeking answers

What does it feel like to shrink? To disappear from your circle of friends? To retire because you no longer want to be seen? What do you think about when you shake yourself awake at night? When it’s 3 in the morning and you can’t fall asleep again because your body won’t let you? Has muscular dystrophy made it harder to smile? Or are the laughs slower in the making? And where do you find hope?

I don’t want to live in the shadows of sadness. But I want to understand life from my dad’s eyes. I want to pick up the sentence where his words end and turn them into a story. I want to bridge the gap between the theoretical and reality, filling in the blanks with my own understanding of what it’s like to feel yourself change. Today, I’m beginning my own journey by tossing words onto a piece of paper in an attempt to find meaning through one man’s journey with Parkinson’s.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post Making Sense of the Senseless appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

ABCs of Parkinson’s: ‘H’ Is for Heroes

heroes

Sherri Journeying Through

A continuation of the “ABCs of Parkinson’s” series.

Ninja Turtles. Batman. Superman. Wonder Woman. 

If you were to list today’s heroes, the list would most likely contain those mentioned above, the tried and true of all “heroes.”

When it came time for my 10th-grade son to tell the class what his term paper would be on, he said, “superheroes, because everyone needs a superhero.” His teacher thought he was joking.

I participated in a walk to promote awareness of Parkinson’s disease (PD) a few years back. We were given T-shirts with “Parkinson’s Hero” splashed across the front. I struggled with wearing that T-shirt for a long while. I didn’t feel like a hero. I didn’t dress like a hero. I didn’t look like a hero.

A few weeks ago, I passed a wildland fire truck. My son is now a wildland firefighter. He took his “everybody needs a superhero” comment seriously. I gave the crew a thumbs up as I passed, thankful that there are men and women doing hero stuff in real life. Men and women who go where most others will not go and do what most others will not do — all for the sake of someone else.

What is a hero, anyhow? A hero is defined as someone “noted for courageous acts or nobility of character. A person who, in the opinions of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.”

I wouldn’t say that all people with Parkinson’s fit that description, but they could to some degree. I know some people with PD or caretakers of those with PD who have done courageous acts — climbed outrageously high mountains, biked long, hard miles, walked across rough and rocky terrain for miles, and more — all for the sake of bringing attention to a cause they deem worthy. Something like Parkinson’s disease research and awareness. Then, there are those who “accomplish” much less, it might seem, but bring just as much attention to the cause. 

We all do what we are able to do with our diseases, even if it means just getting up in the morning. There are times I have gotten down on myself for not doing more. Times I have told myself that writing a blog, speaking about my disease, and advocating for people who have PD is not enough. Times I thought I should be climbing mountains, sailing seas, opening exercise centers, and raising millions of dollars for PD. 

I can’t. Nor do I feel called to do all that. I met a woman with PD, Karen Jaffe, who puts together a comedy night each year and has raised over a million dollars now for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. I know a guy, Enzo Simone, who climbs a mountain a year to bring awareness to PD and Alzheimer’s. I have a good friend, Judy Hensley, who asks people she meets to don her crazy-colored Parkinson’s parka (otherwise known as Da Coat) and gets a picture of them in it as she tells them about Parkinson’s disease.

One isn’t more courageous than the other. It takes as much courage to climb Kilimanjaro as it does to organize a huge fundraiser, as it does to talk about PD to a stranger. I believe those people are heroes. They are people of selfless character who make it possible for others to go further in life, whether it’s taking the baton high on a mountaintop or being granted another day and living it well. These are people who have achieved something noteworthy and inspired countless others. They have been role models for those who can’t, or choose not to, advocate for Parkinson’s or other chronic diseases, disorders, and disabilities. They are somebody’s hero.

The next time you meet someone with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’smultiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, cancer, diabetes, or _________, thank them, along with your firefighters, local policemen, nurses, and _________. They are fighting the battles that others know nothing about. Battles that create real heroes.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post ABCs of Parkinson’s: ‘H’ Is for Heroes appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.