Parkinson's Disease -
Challenges and Encouragement
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Heat, Rain and Parkinson's
40°C (104°F), partly cloudy and 29% humidity. Palm Springs on a summer day. I love it. As do cacti, geckos (or is that gecki) and hippopotami playing nose deep in a local mud-filled wadi (if there were any). Some say that heat is better for my Parkinson’s disease than the cold end of the temperature spectrum. I know that my PD does not do well when I am cold. Shivers on top of tremours and freezing on top of stiffness makes my teeth chatter like an ice cube being rattled around in an empty hi-ball glass.
I have always loved the heat. Growing up in Canada’s Okanagan Valley (today: 34°, partly cloudy and 12% humidity) I learned that the heat of the summer meant it was was time to max out playing tennis and riding bikes. No one cared about sweat or sunstroke. It was dry heat after all. So being in the California desert to deal was not a hardship, at least not due to the heat.
Of course, you need to be prepared for the weather, whether you enjoy it or endure it. A parka, mittens and insulated boots for the snow. Shorts, golf shirt and sandals for the heat. And an umbrella, slicker and waterproof galoshes (or maybe even hip-waders in Vancouver) for the rain. Remarkably, the body underneath the garb does just fine adjusting to the weather.
But our attitude about the weather ends up being the toughest thing to change. It seems that, regardless of our incredible physical adaptability, mental adjustment struggles, and often fails, to follow suit. Every climate in every country seems to elicit complaint. Sweltering humid heat in New Delhi, unrelenting rain in Seattle, fog as thick as cotton batten in London, biting cold in Moscow. Still, people survive the meteorological extremes. Most of us actually even choose to stay where we are, complaining all the while.
The same can be said of those of us who battle our body’s current Parkinson's "weather" and long-term forecast. The PD prognosticator that "weather" predictions are for: “Intermittent shaking today, increasing at times in the days ahead, with the likelihood of sudden stiffness storms developing over a wide area. There is a chance of freezing movements leading to potentially widespread and severe imbalance and falling. Care should be taken as a high stress pressure system is fast approaching, making matters worse as the front settles in and worsens.”
The weather system ahead of us may not be full of sunny, cloudless skies suitable for the picnic we planned, but rain or shine, given the right attitude, there are lots of ways our bodies can adapt. Let's get outside and live to the fullest despite, or even because of, the weather.
Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2006, I was 53. I currently serve as the President of Trinity Western University, of which I am an alumnus. I remain engaged as a lawyer who practices as general counsel to a wide variety of clients, primarily in the Vancouver region of British Columbia, Canada.
Married for 40+ years (to the same loving and long-suffering woman), with 3 grown children, and one grandson. Besides my wife and family, my passion is living the adventure called life as a God-given gift, which includes motorcycle riding, scuba-diving, blogging, Scrabble and looking for the treasure hidden in each day.