Six years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Sort of. Six months before, in July 2008, I was pulled down by my dog who decided that the cat across the street was fair game. As I fell, I heard a horrendous snap, which was my fibula in my left leg. It had broken just above my ankle. So for the next six weeks, I was on crutches. Not long afterwards I noticed a small twitch in the toes of my right foot.
I thought that maybe I did some other damage when I fell, but it didn’t go away. A trip to my internist followed and he put me on Xanax to see if that would calm the twitch. Of course it didn’t and by January the twitch had moved on to my right hand. My doctor sent me to a neurologist to see what was going on.
Three weeks prior I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer and was scheduled for a lumpectomy the next week. The neurologist put me through the usual tests: tap your toes, your heels, open and close your hands, touch his finger when he moved it, etc. He then declared that I had a Parkinson’s-like tremor. Huh? A Parkinson’s like tremor? What does that mean? He immediately put me on Requip with plans to gradually increase the dose over the next few months and sent me home. Long story short, I think he was trying to be gentle with the diagnosis because of the impending breast cancer surgery.
I stayed with him for about six months but still wasn’t getting any answers and was feeling worse from the Requip. My internist then took me off of all of the meds and sent me to the Movement Disorders Clinic at UCLA. There I found the right doctor who confirmed that yes, I did have Parkinson’s, and sent me home with a lot of reading materials, websites to check out and a different medication. She also confirmed that some of the weird things I had been noticing even before the broken leg, were early signs of Parkinson’s. And even better, she is into yoga as therapy for Parkinson’s. I had been practicing yoga for about two years and I found it was good for reducing my tremors on the days that I went to class and I felt better all around on those days.
For the last six years I have found that knowledge and optimism are what gets me through each day. I have become a compulsive researcher on the internet. Recently, as a result, I have been getting calls and emails from friends about a relative or friend or coworker who was recently diagnosed and could that person call me. Writing this I hope that I can help others get through those first months when the diagnosis is still new and hasn’t quite settled in yet. I encourage your feedback, questions and comments so that this becomes more of a dialogue than just another blog.
So I invite you to join me on this journey into a new Normal for all of us.