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I have Parkinsonís. I was diagnosed eleven years ago when I was 49. It was a tough reality for me, especially after I started learning about the disease and what it can do to a person. Parkinsonís is a disease of the brain in which the cells in an area of the brain quit functioning, which then quit producing the neuro-transmitting chemical dopamine. Dopamine is necessary for smooth, coordinated movement and muscle relaxation. This affects both voluntary and involuntary movement, cognitive function such as perception, thinking and recall, and limbic function which means emotions and behavior are also affected. The symptoms are tremor, slowness, stiffness and rigidity, postural instability and loss of coordination. There can be other symptoms - soreness, fatigue, depression, anxiety, painful muscle contractions called dystonias, and more, much more, and none of it good. I learned that PD can gradually destroy physical movement, coordination and speech, and ultimately leaves most incapable of caring for themselves.

Wow. That was a lot to accept. Between the medications and their terrible side effects, and each new symptom that showed the disease was progressing, I was clobbered with this reality over and over. My life was never going to be like it had been, or even what I had envisioned for my future. For many years the disease ruled my life. But I had a lot going for me Ė an awesome loving husband, a great caring family, and truly wonderful supportive friends. I had a choice Ė to live my life and adapt to my new reality, or to give in to it. I have never, ever felt that I am battling this disease alone, my army of family and friends are there for me. I choose to fight.

I have made the choice to change my mind about how this disease was going to affect me. I have made a commitment to wellness. It literally has changed my life. Instead of resigning myself to the inevitable, I am actively pursuing health and mobility. I do this through diet (including taking vitamins), exercise, meditation, medication and self-talk. That, combined with a doctor who specializes in Parkinsonís and believes in integrative medicine, has given me hope and an improvement in my symptoms.

But this disease has had other side effects, unexpected ones that I am grateful for.

Parkinsonís causes me to lose my balance. I spend a lot of time stumbling, staggering, up on my toes trying to get my center of gravity back.

But Having Parkinsonís has helped put my life in balance, taught me what is important. I have the love and support of so many great people that I can never feel sorry for myself that I have this disease. They hold me up and keep me centered.

Parkinsonís causes me to be stiff, unable to get my muscles to cooperate, sometimes unable to move.

But Having Parkinsonís has taught me to be more flexible, to make allowances, to move through life with the awareness that everyone has issues, problems, obstacles and I need to give them, and myself, a break.

Parkinsonís causes me to be reliant on medications in order to function.

But Having Parkinsonís has taught me that it is okay to rely on other people, some who are just waiting to be asked to help.

Parkinsonís causes me mental and emotional stress, sometimes unable to find words and feeling confused, or sometimes causing me to sink down into a bleak depression, avoiding people and hiding.

But Having Parkinsonís has taught me that tomorrow is another day, I will feel better and stronger, and that I have people I can turn to for strength and reassurance.

Parkinsonís causes me to have muscle contractions called dystonias that can be painful and debilitating, turning my foot and toes into a tortuous unnatural twist,.

But Having Parkinsonís has taught me that even though life can be painful, the pain wonít last forever.

Parkinsonís caused me to lose most of my sense of smell.

But Having Parkinsonís has made me stop and ďsmell the rosesĒ and enjoy what I have.

Even though you have may have obstacles and setbacks in your path, and your life isnít turning out the way you planned, make a new plan and move ahead Ė life can be pretty wonderful if you make that choice to adapt and look for positives in the situation. You can decide to change your reality by changing your mind on how you will deal with it. Change your mind.

Posted by Laurel Mann on March 18, 2011

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