AFTER GIVING IT A LOT OF CONSIDERATION I DECIDED TO SEND OUT THIS LETTER BEFORE A REUNION WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT MY DX. WHAT DO YOU THINK? TMI?
BEST WISHES TO YOU, COMRADES...I LNOW IT'S BEEN A WHILE, BUT I AM READING YOUR POSTS AGAIN. I WAS OFF FOR 10 WEEKS TENDING TO MY 87-YEAR-OLD DAD WHO HAS ADVANCED PD. THAT'S ANOTHER POST!
I address myself to my erstwhile middle school colleagues, but this is an open letter to anyone who might have wondered what ever happened to [me]. It’s been four years without any contact between us, but M. wrote me a few days ago to say that the eighth graders have requested my presence at their graduation ceremony, and I was happy to accept.
There is something that I want to tell you before I show up. Something a little…icky, or possibly Too Much Information. Read on at your peril.
During my tenure there I confided to a few of you that I was afflicted with depression and anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, and confusion when presented with novel situations. I also experienced apparently unrelated phenomena such as an unprovoked frozen shoulder, an occasional tremor in my right hand that my doctor ascribed to anxiety, and a sudden change in my handwriting.
After leaving I took a second grade position back in the public school system, a job for which I was far better suited than I was for middle school. Yet, despite a range of therapies I was increasingly beset by distressing episodes. In November 2010 my new general practitioner sent me to a neurologist, who performed a series of tests and diagnosed idiopathic Parkinson’s Disease (PD). A second opinion confirmed this diagnosis, and I learned that my cognitive, emotional, and motor complaints were all typical early signs of PD, which often appear years before diagnosis. I began to take medications and physical therapy and I soon retired from the teaching profession.
PD is a degenerative neurological condition and there is no cure. There are, however, many effective treatments, and once I started my drug and movement therapies I felt MUCH better, happier in fact than I had felt in years. I also developed better mental habits, notably an “attitude of gratitude” that helps me stay positive and in the moment. The disease does not interfere much with my daily life at this point and I don’t fret about tomorrow. I don’t feel sorry for myself either. Everybody gets something eventually. I am O.K. Really.
So why, you may ask yourself, am I even sharing all this rather personal and possibly irrelevant information?
First, I just want it known that if you saw me stumble and fumble through my workday and asked yourself “Is something wrong with this guy?”, well, yes, good call, there was something wrong with me beyond the jumble of contradictory traits we all drag along with us through life.
Second, if you see me shake on Friday, it’s not impatience or nervousness; it’s just the Parkinson’s. If you see me stagger or shuffle or walk with excessive care, I’m not drunk at 1:00 in the afternoon; it’s the PD. Ditto if I schlump around hunched over, garble my speech, or struggle with my food. Being in public exacerbates these symptoms, but they are trivial to me.
Finally, I write as a member of the PD community, in a humble effort to raise awareness about this ridiculous and misunderstood condition called Parkinson’s. It’s not just old guys shaking. Early onset is common, and some Parkinson’s people never get the tremor. Many of the disabling symptoms are invisible or can appear as annoying public behaviors such as excessive slowness in a check-out line or a crosswalk, or standing rooted to a spot, disrupting the traffic flow. Such people are painfully aware of the effect they are causing, but are simply unable to overcome their ruined brain chemistry and just move. Please, be patient.
I thank you for your kind attention to this note and look forward to seeing you soon.
Best wishes, and congratulations on another school year brought successfully to a close.