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Laughter as Medicine

laughter, Journeying Through Parkinson's

My 2-year-old grandson runs back toward the fence that shields him from entering a dark, muddy pond. I am sure there are water monsters that live deep in that 3-foot shallow, but ever-so murky, pond. They lie in wait beneath the scum and the sludge and the slime and all the other stuff that starts with “s” and floats on top. They wallow quietly beneath the surface, those monstrous creatures which stare at us from where they hide.

And while the secrets of the pond lie quiet, there are hatches of small flies coming to life above the surface and to the south of that pond. I get caught in a few hatches today. So does my grandson. Unlike me, however, he is ecstatic.

I swat at the flies as I walk through the army of fresh fish bait. I spit out the ones that I miss with my hands and end up in my mouth. 

He is laughing

He lets go a big, deep-hearted, uncontrollable, belly laugh. Before I know it, I am laughing with him, because there are endless things this 2-year-old does to cause you to smile and make you laugh. But this … this is the topper so far.

After batting away a dozen or more flies, I look over at this belly-laughing boy and see him running deliberately, determinedly, purposely, and quite willfully into the multitude of small white creatures whose wings are just learning their purpose a bit too late. Because this boy — my little monkey grandson — has decided to see what makes fish enjoy newly hatched, tiny, cream-colored flies. And so he runs — his little “run on his tippy toes run” — and as he runs, he opens wide his mouth and hopes for success.

I am laughing

If that isn’t entertaining enough, after he runs through the swarm, he stops, closes his eyes and rubs his belly as if to say, “Yum!!!” And then he does it again and I have to chase after him to get him to stop, which can be somewhat difficult for a grammy who has Parkinson’s disease.

And I wonder why a 2-year-old would want to catch flies in his mouth. What prompts him to do it? Perhaps it’s the fact that his daddy is coming home tonight from fighting fires in the forests and he knows it, for he is excited from head to toe. And daddy loves to fly fish. Perhaps there have been conversations about “flies” and how the fishies try to get them as father is teaching son how to tie flies.

Laugh out loud

Who can know what goes on in the mind of a 2-year-old? I don’t. But I do know this: Laughter is one of the greatest gifts and best medicines you can give yourself, either through observing a child playing or listening to them tell a story. Or maybe by listening to a good comedian like Jerry Seinfeld or Jim Gaffigan or bloopers from your favorite TV show. Opportunities for laughter (and the healing that comes through laughter) are all around us. We just have to be open to them and ready to grab hold of them and laugh — laugh out loud!

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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 Laughter as Medicine appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Parkinson’s Disease Medication Adds to the Struggle, But Also Relieves It

medication

Sherri Journeying Through

Aren’t you tired of taking medicine? You wake up shaking and can’t just go and shower the way you used to because your body doesn’t listen to your brain. Instead of hopping in and out of the shower, the process takes f.o.r.e.v.e.r. Before you “hop in and out,” you take a morning medicinal cocktail and wait for it to kick in.

Other people smile and say, “You look so good. You don’t even look like you have Parkinson’s.” I always want to reply, “What is Parkinson’s supposed to look like, anyhow?”

I remember hearing about a man who flippantly shared his story in a local newspaper, saying that at times his Parkinson’s is so out of control that people think he is trying to choke himself. I think he may need a new doctor or a different treatment. But maybe those options wouldn’t make a difference. 

Parkinson’s looks different on each person. It’s like putting the same shirt with the same print, in the same size, on five different people. It’s going to look and fit differently on each person. No one will wear it the same. No one wears the same disease in the same way, and the same is true for their medications.

People may say we “look good.” That may make them feel more comfortable, at the moment, as there’s no shaking to stare at and wonder all the things they wonder about when we shake. Do they do it at other times for attention? Have they been misdiagnosed? Are they overmedicated or undermedicated? All three scenarios could be a reality.

Whether we “look good” or not, there is a raging battle inside of us to claim our spirits, will, mind, joy, calm, and peace. On days like today, the disease may have gained a bit of ground physically, emotionally, mentally, and more. But also on days like today, we can remind ourselves that we have a God who sees inside the places no one else can see — the places that don’t look or feel so good. He sees the battle and orders a reprieve, if only for the slightest moment.

It could be a reprieve from those who tease at our expense or from the stares that are ignored with the knowledge that people stare out of ignorance, like I once did. Or, a reprieve from the weariness, tiredness, pain, discouragement, and sometimes the despair.

Yet, there is no reprieve from the plethora of medications, so you take the next dose. Three red ones, four orange, 13 white, one yellow. It’s up to 23 a day now, more with pain or a headache. Sometimes they’ll make you sick, sometimes they make you tired, sometimes they make you sick and tired. Sometimes, they make you feel better than you do without them.

If I didn’t take my medication, would I not “look good” but feel better? Or would I “look great” and feel worse? Maybe I’d start choking myself like the man in the newspaper. I don’t know.

I do know that I don’t like taking all that medicine, but I do like being able to live life to it’s fullest — whatever that might mean for me. If taking those pills helps (and they do), then I’ll swallow number 13, quit complaining, and enjoy an afternoon nap. After all, the house is quiet and empty, being that I scared everyone away by being cranky thanks to missing my noon dose.  

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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 Parkinson’s Disease Medication Adds to the Struggle, But Also Relieves It appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

With Parkinson’s, Slow Is the New Fast

denial

There is no way I have Parkinson’s Disease (PD).

That river in Egypt (‘Da Nile’)

I will never forget the day I heard the words no one ever wants to hear: “You have an incurable, progressive disease.” Although I had two good friends with PD, I never thought we would have something like this in common.

In 2015, at my annual check-up, my primary care physician suggested I see a neurologist after I told her my handwriting was becoming illegible. Little did I know, this would mark the beginning of my PD journey. The first neurologist I saw told me I had PD but suggested I see a movement disorder specialist to confirm the diagnosis. Determined to prove him wrong, I made the appointment. After conducting the standard tests (which I felt were too subjective), she agreed with the first doctor’s diagnosis.

Still convinced that I did not have this disease, I sought out other medical opinions. After all, I ate well, exercised, and always got plenty of sleep — I did all the “right” things. How could I possibly be sick? Still in denial, I saw three other neurologists — all confirmed the PD diagnosis. One doctor prescribed a PET/CT scan of the brain, which offered further clinical proof of PD.

Medications … NOT!

Of course, the consensus of all the neurologists was that I should start taking prescription medication. Initially, I refused to follow their advice. I believed I could ease my symptoms through holistic measures, diet, physical and occupational therapy, and exercise.

I clearly remember what my life partner, Steve (lost to suicide), had dealt with while trying to find the right medications for his depression. There were numerous side effects and the multiple concurrent, prescribed treatments: “This drug doesn’t work, so add this drug to enhance the functioning of the first medication.” If there was still no improvement in symptoms, medication dosage would increase. Then there was the medication’s loss of efficacy over time. It could also take weeks or months to know if the drug was going to help. Even further alarming was that some of the side effects (suicide in the case of some antidepressants) were what the medication was trying to alleviate.

From what I read about PD medications, it seemed like I would experience a very similar situation to what Steve went through.

Am I depressed, or do I have PD?

Although I refused to take medications to alleviate my symptoms, I still continued my exercise routine (walking, yoga, weights, cycling). However, I was on high alert for changes in my body.

Other strange things were happening to me that I could not explain. While volunteering at a race, I was rolling posters for athlete giveaways. I could not understand why the other staff could roll five posters to my one. Why was I so slow at performing such a simple task? Rolling around in bed at night became a chore, and I felt I needed a forklift to change positions! My left foot kept falling out of my slip-on shoes. I had trouble keeping the shoe on, especially when going upstairs. Fatigue and lack of motivation plagued me.

Could these symptoms be attributed to situational depression that resulted from Steve’s suicide, or was it PD? Should I consider medications for depression or PD?

A blessing and a curse

Having been an athlete most of my life — tennis player, weight trainer, roller-skater, race walker, dancer, and cyclist — I was very much in tune with my body and in touch with its capabilities. This has been both a blessing and a curse. The discipline to work out, along with the muscle memory I have built over the years, is serving me well in fighting PD. However, I am also very aware of how much ability I have lost. Before PD, my balance was excellent. Now it is probably closer to what someone my age has now. However, my frustration level is so high since I still expect to be able to accomplish what once came so naturally to me.

Where I was once strong, fluid, and graceful, I now feel weak, inflexible, rigid, and non-rhythmic. Most people who look at me see no signs of PD. However, I know what I have lost, and for me, that loss is huge.

Although I sometimes wish I had never been an athlete (you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone), I do accept that my years of training and athletics will be my saving grace in fighting this disease.

(Photos courtesy of Jean Mellano)

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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 With Parkinson’s, Slow Is the New Fast appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Source: Parkinson's News Today