Surviving Adversity Living with Parkinson’s

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This formidable opponent has left my movements slow and clumsy. But I am determined to fight back. I watch my family and friends watching me as I tread cautiously down stairs holding tightly onto the banister. They walk in front of me in case I should fall, concern evident intheir furtive backward glances. Slight unsteadiness has gradually crept into my new reality and I no longer remember how it felt to scurry down the stairs. My future was carved out by the arrival 15 years ago of the Parkinson disease,a degenerative brain disorder that leads to muscle rigidity, tremors and slowing of movements. Many people with advanced disease have impaired balance, shuffling gait and muffled speech,some experience memory loss, others struggle with the disease-induced depression. My memories of D Day diagnosis remain vivid,”You have garden variety Parkinson’s disease” the neurologist casually announced leaving me fighting back my tears as I tried to maintain a dignified front. As the initial shock began to wear off I resolved to fight this strong adversary with every fiber of my being and to uphold my joyful disposition despite the challenges ahead. At 74, my movements have become slow and deliberate and my fingers clumsy. My handwriting is illegible even to me and I scratch my head in bewilderment as I try to decipher what I’ve written. My greatest fear is the possibility of losing my intellect but would I know. Even now simple words elude me so I describe what I am trying to say when I can’t find the word. It helps me to be able to laugh at myself. How else can I deal with being called Sir or Ma’am on telephone because my voice has become deeper and softer? The software insists my name is Yanni not Rony and sometimes I want to yell “Hello I’m still here”.The ability to communicate effectively is of paramount importance to the psychological well being of all humans. I may be joyful, but I am also human,feelings and fears drift in and out of my psyche. The trepidation that permeates my being when I picture myself with the advanced disease. That sadness that pervades when I remind myself that my grandson will never know the person I was. The anger I try to suppress each time my body betrays me. A nd the terror of developing dementia. And so we laugh together and cry together. And I quietly thank my lucky stars for the many wonderful people in my life who walk the road with me and give every reason to be joyful. Perhaps such a journey is one we can all stand to undertake at one point or another in the course our lives. “Always Looking Up” is a reminder of that. Mr. Rodrigues has written two other stories: