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1978, My Irish roses in Belfast, Ireland.

1978, My roses in Belfast, Ireland

JUNE 18, 2013 | by Darcy Blake | Every woman at the Parkinson’s Women Support lunch table remembers the exact moment she received the word from her doctor, “You’ve got Parkinson’s Disease.” We went into denial, shock, anger, sorrow and some of us sought a second opinion. While most of us experienced the same gamut of reactions on that day, very few of us would ever say that our symtoms are the same.

Whaat’s in the Garden?
Some of us heard a familiar line, “You’re lucky, you’ve just got the garden variety.” Translation: a little shake and a little shuffle and not anything too terrible and exotic. But even with that, we each have our own treatment regiment and progression. Just like there are over 100 species of roses that you might find in a garden, so you might have as many combinations of  “displays” in the garden of PD. Some of us have a tremor, some do not. Some lose the strength of their voice, or they have balance issues, or rigidity and others do not show that outcome at the same stage in the disease progression. Some have reactions to medications, others do not, and the list goes on.

Get that Body Moving
Therefore, when a newly diagnosed PD person meets our group and is worried about how PD will evolve for her (or him,) we can’t give generic advice based on our experience that will be definitive, because we are all different. Research shows that you can improve your quality of life if you exercise frequently. The need to exercise is kind of a given these days, and it is our anchor. The rest is for you to discover.

The women in our group are go-getters. Some of them have had PD for 15 years and more. They aren’t all still employed, but some, like me (I’ve had PD for 5 years) definitely are. What an active bunch! They are running in marathons, traveling the world, skiing, creating art, making crafts, heading non-profit fundraisers, taking care of grandkids and more. My mother has had PD for 25 years. She never exercised. She is now in a wheelchair with the same “garden variety” of shake that she has pretty much always had. Would she be in a wheelchair today if she had exercised? We don’t know. That is how her PD “garden” grew. Is everyone the same? Absolutely not.

A Full Life Ahead
I think that the lunch bunch would agree that this news should be encouraging for a newly diagnosed person with PD. The point is, you are just diagnosed, but probably nothing terrible is happening any time soon. You have a full life ahead of you, and now you’re going to value it just a little bit more. This is your time to do something special, like maybe plant a rose.

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