“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” —Willie Nelson
My good friend Mike ‘s prayer card had a quote that has truly resonated with me. I believe it marks the beginning of an important turning point in my life.
Since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease(PD) seven months after the suicide of my soulmate Steve, in 2015, I have been in denial and refusing to accept that I have this disease. Part of that denial was refusing to take any prescription medications. These medications can only potentially relieve or mask the PD symptoms. The drugs can be very expensive and do not help everyone and as it is with most medications, they can have very bad side effects. Over time, as the disease progresses, the drugs start losing their efficacy and dosages need to be increased at the risk of incurring more and/or stronger side effects. PD is incurable and no medication is known to stop the progression of the disease. My holistic alternatives to achieve some symptom relief and possibly slow the disease progression consist of weight workouts, boxing, walking, eliminating sugar, gluten, dairy and meat in my diet, practicing yoga and meditation; all done in an effort to combat whatever neurological issues I was having.
Since many (doctors and other people with PD) have indicated to me that the drugs can be life changing and can greatly improve the quality of life, I finally succumbed and started taking PD medications a few months ago. The ideal is to find the right ‘cocktail’ of drugs at a dosage where the symptoms are relieved with no or minimal side effects; a time consuming and frustrating process with no guarantees of success. The hope is that there will soon be a cure, therefore eliminating the need to continue to take these medications. While I am skeptical that there will be a cure for PD in my lifetime, all I have is today and I want to live a quality life in the present moment.
I do believe I am now starting to see some improvement in my symptoms; my mood is more uplifted, I don’t experience ‘internal tremors’ (weakness and shakiness) all the time and my fatigue is not as bad. I still suffer from bradykinesia (slowness of movement) and my fine motor skills (writing, typing, etc.) have not improved. The progress I have made thus far could be from my boxing classes, my diet, the medications or a combination of all of these. Or perhaps maybe it is because I have finally accepted that I will never be the same again, that I will never be the dancer or athlete I once was. I am no longer in denial. Whatever is affecting me neurologically is now my new reality. I accept this.
Attitude adjustment and expressions of gratitude are also part of my healing process. In the not too distant past, whenever I would see someone in the more advanced stages of PD, I would think to myself; “That is my future.” Now, I am starting to reframe my thoughts. If I see someone whose PD symptoms are worse than mine, I will remind myself to be thankful for what I have. I can still live independently, I can still drive and I still have my cognitive skills (although sometimes I wonder about that LOL). Since I am retired, my time is now used to doing activities that will help heal me.
I accept and understand that some of my symptoms may never be banished. My hope is that the medications will allow me to continue to do my exercise program at a higher intensity and that in the long run, I will be able to achieve even more symptom relief and/or halt or slow the disease progression and possibly wean myself off the medications. It will not happen overnight and it will be a long, slow process with many bumps in the road. I understand and accept that I will have ‘off’ days, but, I do believe there will also be ‘on’ days too.
Just as I have finally accepted that Steve took his own life, I now acknowledge that I have PD.
Accepting the reality of my disease will not make it go away. I believe acceptance will free me up to use the energy that I do have to fight the progression and symptoms of PD.
“Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.” — William James