“As you get older, three things happen: The first is your memory goes, and I can’t remember the other two.”
~ Norman Wisdom
My birthdays are coming up next week. Yes, Birthdays. One for my real birthday; one for my time with PD. No, I won’t say how old my real age (more than 50 more than my PD age) is, but I am also marking my 10th birthday from the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms this month. I did not know then, of course, that it was Parkinson’s. Just that something was wrong.
I was writing thank-you notes after being honored at an event. There were a lot to write, and every once in a while, when I was writing, my foot started to twitch. I would shake it off, and go back to writing. It was more annoying than troubling. It would come and go, always when I was writing. Then it disappeared for a while, only to return several months later after I fell and broke my ankle (on the non-twitching foot). After that, the twitch never went away. At the time, I thought that maybe I did something when I fell to cause it; I have since learned that the PD was there and that the trauma may have set it free. The tremor eventually moved to my hand (same side) and by the end of the year, my doctor was convinced that it was PD and sent me to a neurologist.
It is likely that I had some PD symptoms before I noticed my foot shaking 10 years ago, but for all intents and purposes, I can say with certainty that my new life began in March, 2008. My new “normal” had begun and now I don’t even remember what the old “normal” was like. Within a year, I felt like I had aged 10 years. Things that were easy before had become a challenge. This was not how I had imagined my future would be.
PD takes things away from you, but I learned that sometimes you can get some of them back. Like many of us, I went through the usual phases of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — not necessarily in that order or in a straight line. Then I started to fight back. Knowledge and exercise (and a few drugs) changed my life. I had always exercised regularly, working out with a trainer for years. I added yoga and then boxing to my regimen. I started feeling better, moving better and (according to friends and family) looking healthier. My new “normal” will never be the same as the old “normal”, but it was looking much better than it did several years before. And the new me was ready to take on the world.
We mark time in our lives with birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones. After 10 years, I am doing well. So well, that the neurologist I saw in Israel last month declared that I was very well “controlled” (and “preserved”?!?!) after 10 years with PD. I just have to remember that any time I am feeling like my PD is getting worse.
So this week it is time to celebrate both the old 60-something me and the new 10 year old me. Maybe in 3 years I will even do something to celebrate being 13 that my old me never did. Have a (PD) Bat Mitzvah!*
*Bar Mitzvah, or Bat Mitzvah for girls, is a Jewish ritual that celebrates the coming of age in the Jewish community. Traditionally, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrant reads Hebrew from the Torah (5 Books of Moses) in the synagogue on that day. Learning another language, of course, is an exercise that is recommended for People with PD to help restore the neurons in the brain. Another reason to celebrate!