Friday, August 28, 2009

In the Beginning

Parkinson's disease (PD) starts out as innocently as a small outbreak of acne. It is annoying at first, but generally goes unnoticed. A few people seem to have eyes that see the rather unappealing flaws, but most don't much pay attention. But week after week, month after month, it gets worse. More people look at you a little too long with that quizzical expression (you know, the one that says, "There is something wrong with this picture. Now what is it?"). You are increasingly bothered by this "condition" that does not seem to go away. At some point you see the doctor. You expect the dismissive, "take a few of these pills once a day for the next two weeks and that nasty problem will disappear". Instead, after a few rather innocuous tests the unsmiling man in the white smock tells you the news that will change your views of your genetic heritage, upbringing, work, family, and/or even God (there has to be something or someone to blame). In short, your whole worldview is shaken. Most of all, the diagnosis immediately distorts your sense of the future.

There is no doubt after a second or third opinion, it's POSITIVELY PARKINSON'S. This is a life-altering, "incurable", degenerative and ultimately debilitating disease. This dying of dopamine in the brain, and its consequences, begin to define you. A thousand times a day your mind repeats mournfully, "I have Parkinson"s Disease."

The good news (of which there is precious little) is that you are unlikely to die from PD. The bad news is that you must learn to live with its greedy encroachment on "normal" living. And you have no idea how to do that!

PD is not a disease you can hide for long, although one becomes very adept at doing so (sitting on my jumpy right hand is my personal favourite). It is not a disease that progresses or evidences itself predictably, even day-to-day. It will certainly humble and frustrate you as it progressively conquers your limbs one by one, but no one will predict exactly when or how . Its symptoms might be 'treatable' by a plethora of pills, but at some point the adverse affects of the meds may be worse than the PD itself. There may be pain or not. Tremors or none. Stiffness might convert your face to an unblinking, expressionless mask and your legs to planted stumps. Depression, insomnia, loss of smell, and/or fatigue may invade your experience. The picture is not pretty.

Writing a blog focuses the mind. Writing one about living with a disease that has the disturbing ability to incessantly remind you of its unwanted presence is like looking through a microscope. It can be a frightening picture; like a horror movie with a progressively more scary storyline. No happy ending!

But must those of us contending with PD be permanently relegated to the ranks of those pitied by others (and sometimes ourselves)? I say "No!" After all, "normal" really is just a setting on a dryer. There is so much we can do. It was my 21 year old daughter who came up with the name "Positively Parkinson's" as we drove together from the Seattle Airport to our home in Langley British Columbia and talked about this risky business of blogging. I told her I wanted to start a blog to share words of encouragement with others dealing with PD, and those who care for or about them. The name was perfect.

So here it is, the beginning. I intend to post entries as often as my schedule allows. I invite feedback and comment; good, bad or ugly, I will try not to take it personally.. I will share stories and ideas (and I invite yours).

My hope and prayer is that this modest and personal attempt at sharing my PD journey and exploring ideas of how to live positively with it will somehow encourage others facing the often overwhelming and always uphill uncertainty of life with PD. We can be "Positively Parkinson's"!


  1. Hi Bob
    I think your blog reflects your struggle and positive attitude very well. It will no doubt be a very good tool for encouragement for those you know, those you haven't met yet, and those who although silent will walk a less burdened knowing they are not alone. May God find you a way to slay this dragon.
    Love Heather

  2. Very good writing, Bob, and that comes from a professional writer. Just got diagnosed, so I'm exploring the PD blogosphere. Yours is the first blog I have read, although I have 11 URLs so far.

    Prefer anonymity for now, mostly to keep my job a couple more years. Looking forward to reading more here.

    1. Dear anonymous;

      I appreciate your affirmation and encouragement. The first while after being diagnosed with PD is a desperate time. By fully understand why you want to remain anonymous, at least for the time being. Blogging, for me, has become a means of expressing, and sharing, the experience and the journey that is Parkinson's disease. If it suits you, I would be more than willing to discuss matters with you by way of phone or Skype or whatever. You know my contact information as I can be found by e-mail, Facebook, or on Skype. Just so you know that you are not alone in this struggle. It would be my honor to walk with you a little while, even if it is in cyberspace.


  3. Thanks, Bob, for the cordial reply and generous offer of dialog. I'll continue this offline.