May Blog: Parkinson’s Disease

 

When I was asked to write this blog, I was initially at a loss for subject matter. I considered writing about golf, but then figured I would lose most people about as quickly as I lose them if I ask them to watch a tournament with me. Like most of my family…

Then my wife suggested that I write about Parkinson’s Disease, with which I am newly diagnosed. I can always count on her to make great suggestions! So, let’s get to it with a definition of what it is.

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.

Now that’s a mouthful! Fortunately, I have one of the finest neuroscientists in NH in my corner (my wife) and an equally adept neurologist following my case, Dr. Keith McAvoy.

For a little background, there are around 1 million people in the US with this diagnosis, and about 10 million worldwide. It does help a bit to know I am not alone in facing this problem. As I looked at the Parkinson’s Foundation website… it’s also encouraging to have a condition with a website!...I have already begun to learn more about what I have to deal with.

One of the first statements I read was that “emotional strength is vital to physical health.” Words to live by, literally! Personally, I gain that strength through my faith in God, and from the positive support I get from my wife, family, and friends. I know this is key, and will continue to be so, as I progress with this.

The way I look at it, is I could also be dealing with a lot worse things. Cancer? No thanks, already lost family to that and seen too much of it while in health care. Alzheimer’s? Lost my dad to that and now am seeing my older brother going through it as well. Again, no thanks. MS, COPD, AIDS, ALS…the list goes on of things I can thank God I don’t have to deal with…at least not presently.

As I learn to deal with this, I am always looking for ways to help fight it. One important piece of advice I keep hearing is “Get moving!” I know this is great advice, and I am trying to do more in the way of exercise. As people know, I got back onto skiing this year, and am planning on walking much more on the golf course and doing more kayaking with Sue and our granddaughter Emily, for whom we bought a kayak this year.

Most importantly, though, for me and those dealing with this, or any condition, is to learn all you can about it as well as the resources available to help. Also, don’t try to hide it! Be up front and honest – true friends and family will not only understand, but will be there as your support network.

There were also several quotes from people who have been dealing with PD for years, two of which caught my eye;

“I have Parkinson’s Disease…Parkinson’s Disease doesn’t have me!”

“The only predictable thing (about PD) is that it is unpredictable.”

Two varied perspectives, but both equally important to embrace. I know that I have to keep a positive attitude no matter what happens to me in the course of this physical challenge. I know that there is continuing research, second only to Cancer in financial scope, going on as I write this. I look forward to any new options that will come out of this and am excited to be part of such studies, as I am already enrolled in such studies, like those sponsored by the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Speaking of which, I am also in good company with those similarly diagnosed.

Michael, diagnosed in 1991; Alan Alda, in 2015; Muhammed Ali, in 1984;

George H.W. Bush, in 2012; Neil Diamond, in 2018; Billy Graham, in 1993; and

Robin Williams in 2014, who also had Lewy Body syndrome. I found out that  Lewy Body is one of the conditions attached to PD that can also cause side effects like hallucinations and such. Again, from my perspective, I could have it worse.

So, for the time being, I will continue on my medication regimen, continue to try and do all I can to stem the progress, and continue to pray for a miraculous healing, which can also occur! My loving wife Sue also prays for this regularly.

Am I a blessed guy, or what? Some may look at all of this and wonder how I can say that, but I know in my heart that, all things considered, I am truly just that. Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about PD, just Google it and you will find a wealth of information. If you, or anyone you know, is in a similar situation and would like to have someone to talk to, I’m a good listener! You can contact me at pmcginnis@ninhllc.com. Have a wonderful day!

NINH