10 things that can help you cope with your new diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease

Many bloggers write about what you can do to cope with a new diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. We all have a different take on the issue, so if you have just been diagnosed, look for other blogs with similar titles. As they say in the Parkie world, we are like snowflakes, no two of us are alike. Each one of us has different symptoms and responds differently to medications and therapy. By reading several different blogs, you will get a broader perspective about your new companion, PD, which will be at your side for many years to come. So here are some of my suggestions for living well with Parkinson’s.

You have just been diagnosed. You walk out of the doctors office in a state of shock and the reality of it doesn’t sink in until after you get home. So many unanswered questions and your next appointment is 6 months or more away. What can you do?

Well, there are actually a lot of things that you can do before you see your doctor that will help you understand your new constant companion and to feel better about it. Before you do anything else, try to make a follow up appointment sooner if possible. Make sure that you bring someone with you who can help ask questions and take notes for you. Prepare a list of questions to take with you. We all forget to ask key questions if we don’t write them down. Click here for a worksheet from Health Monitor that you can use (scroll down the page to get to it).

Twitchy Woman’s 10 recommendations for the newly diagnosed:

1. Exercise. I can’t stress this enough. Exercise has been shown to be the most effective way to combat the effects of PD. If you are already exercising, good for you. See if you can increase your level of activity – the more you push yourself, the better the results. If you have not been exercising, start slowly. Walk around the block. Add distance and speed as it becomes more comfortable for you. Add different types of exercise to your routine. Varying what you do on a daily basis is good for your brain and your body. Most importantly, find what you enjoy doing. If you don’t like it, you won’t do it. My exercise routine is a combination of Boxing for PD, regular yoga classes, tennis and a Peloton bike.

2. Continue to do what you did before your diagnosis. PD may eventually slow you down, but for now, don’t let it stop you.

3. A good diet. Check Dr. Laurie Mischley’s website for recommendations for a Parkie diet.

4. Get out of the house. Loneliness is the #1 cause for a rapid decline with PD.

5. Find a mentor with PD. Ask your doctor if he/she can recommend someone living well with Parkinson’s who you can talk to. We have all been in your shoes and understand what you are going through. A mentor can answer your questions and be there for you when you need a friend.

6. Go to a support group. This may not be your thing, but try it anyway. There are a lot of different types of support groups out there and you may find new friends with PD who will become your support system.

7. Find a class for Parkies – boxing, dance, yoga, etc. The best way, in my opinion, to find your way through the maze of PD. The people you meet in these classes will become an important part of your support system. They know what you are going through. It also keeps you from being isolated (see #3) and gives you something to look forward to.

8. Go online and look for a few blogs and websites that you can trust and relate to. Beware of those trying to sell you a “cure”. Some good websites to start with are Michael J Fox Foundation, Parkinson’s Foundation and Davis Phinney Foundation. For a list of blogs I like, click on the Resources tab.

9. Read a good book about PD. Click on the My Books and Things I Like page (above) for recommendations. Two books I will recommend you start with are Parkinson’s? You’re kidding me, right? One woman’s unshakeable belief in overcoming a shaky diagnosis! by Sheryl Jedlinski andBrain Storms: The Race to Unlock the Mysteries of Parkinson’s Disease by Jon Palfreman. And order Every Victory Counts” from the Davis Phinney Foundation. It is free and a good resource.

10. Go to an educational program about PD. The 3 foundations above all sponsor educational programs, as well as The American Parkinson’s Disease Association and local Parkinson’s groups.

I hope that this will help. The most important thing for you to know is that you are not alone on your journey with PD. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me or to others with Parkinson’s Disease. We are there to help you.

Reaching a Milestone and an Inspiring New Book to Read

Look at you.  You’re in Spain.  You’re walking out here on the Meseta.  How many people are doing this?  How many people with a chronic disease do you see out here today?……Do something good, Carol.  Find something good to do with it.”    From The Ribbon of Road Ahead

 

Twitchy Woman has reached a milestone.  This is post #201 ! ! !   When I started this blog, I never expected it to  continue for as long as it has.  And what a ride it has been. Somehow, I have posted almost weekly in the last 4 years, and am honored to have made Best Parkinson’s Blogs lists at least 6 times (see the sidebar).  Other opportunities for me have come up as a result.   I want to thank everyone of you who has been following me, whether it has been for 200 posts or just 1.  My initial blogpost was seen by just 15 people.  There are now over 1500 followers.  Your support and encouragement have kept me going.

On my way to Kyoto!

Speaking of opportunities, as you may know, I submitted an abstract to the World Parkinson’s Congress.  At medical meetings, researchers are asked to submit abstracts (a brief description of their research study).  If their abstract is accepted, they will then create a posWPC2019_LOGO_246x153.gifter based on their research for display.  For the WPC, People with Parkinson’s (PwP’s) were also encouraged to submit their ideas (abstracts) for living well with PD.  There will be hundreds of posters on display throughout the conference.  If you are attending the WPC, look for me on Wednesday, June 5,  between 11:30-1:30.  I will be at my poster in space 649 to talk about it and I would love to meet you.

Thank you to all who responded to my survey for this project.   I cannot give you the final results until after the WPC, but the most important things for someone to live well with PD are Exercise and Getting Enough Sleep.  Neither of these should be a surprise for anyone with PD.  If we don’t have a good night’s sleep, the daytime fatigue can be debilitating.  And that fatigue manifests itself in many ways.

As far as Exercise is concerned, the more you do, and the more intense it is, the better.  I had hand surgery last Thursday and have not been able to exercise since.  I am already noticing, 5 days later, that my tremor is acting up more.  We need to think of Exercise as medicine, and I have not been taking my medicine.

The Ribbon of Road Ahead

And speaking of exercise, I just finished reading an inspiring new book by fellow PwP, Carol Clupny titled The Ribbon of Road Ahead.  After her diagnosis of Parkinson’s, Carol was determined to walk The Camino de Santiago. If you have traveled in northwestern Spain, from Pamplona to Santiago de Compestola, you may have seen hikers walking along the route marked with seashells pointing the way.  Pilgrims from all over the world come to walk on this grueling 500+ mile network of pilgrim routes, from Southern France to Spain, for many different reasons, often hiking through rocky mountain passes.  The Way, as it is called in the movie with Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen, is difficult for anyone without disabilities, but Carol was not going to let that stop her.  With her husband, son and other family members and friends at her side, she recounts the obstacles she faced as well as the accomplishments.

Carol went back 2 more times to walk parts of the trail with other women whom she had met along the way.  She has also biked across Iowa 3 times with her husband on the annual 450 mile RAGBRAI (The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) with the Pedaling for Parkinson’s team.  Much of the ride was done on a tandem bike named Grepedo.  She did all of this before her DBS surgery a couple of years ago. The final chapters recount her surgery and the small successes that were the beginning of regaining her life before PD.  Her story is inspiring, and shows that determination and grit can help those of us with a chronic illness get through some of the more difficult times.  Carol has indeed done something good by sharing her story with us.  Look for Carol at the WPC in Kyoto if you are there.

 

Because it is World Parkinson’s Day….

There are many things I want to share with you.

Image may contain: 15 people, people smiling

Yesterday, the first #ParkinsonsEve took place in Great Britain.  I wish I could have attended, but going to Kyoto is a priority this year.  However, those of us who stayed home will have an opportunity to watch at least some of  the conference in the next few days.  Stay tuned for the info on where you can watch it online.  For more info go to parkinsonseve on Facebook.

Update 4/15  Click on the video to see all of the conference speakers:

 

This month, the Parkinson’s Foundation wants to know your 🔑  to living well with PD.

Whether you are living with PD, are a caregiver or a healthcare professional, tell us your tip. From managing freezing to sleeping and bathroom tips — no topic is off limits. Our hope is that others can replicate your tips and make their life just a little easier.

Click here:  #KeyToPD  to share yours.

My  #KeyToPD Finding new friends with PD who understand how you feel.

12 Things You Don’t Understand About Parkinson’s Unless You Have It

Are you familiar with the website The Mighty?  I was not until contacted earlier this week by them to contribute a few quotes for  12 Things You Don’t Understand About Parkinson’s Unless You Have It,  which was published today. The Mighty, according to their website, is a digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities.  There is a Parkinson’s community on the website that you can subscribe to, and you can also share your stories, ask questions and connect with other Parkies.

Francesca ParkinsonsChampions Villa's photo.

 

And finally, there were problems with the survey that I sent out a few weeks ago asking how YOU are living well with Parkinson’s Disease.  I want to thank the 139 people who completed the survey, but unfortunately,  I will not be able to use the data.

I am going back to the questions as originally posted on Facebook.

Please list the top 3 things that help YOU to live well with Parkinson’s. Then the flip side – the top 3 things that are obstacles for you:
For example: 
Positive: Exercise, Advocating for myself with my doctors, Friendships with other women with PD. 
Negative: Poor sleep, Tremor gets in the way of doing things, Daytime fatigue 

Click here to take the survey.  Any answers sent by email will not be included in the final report.  Please respond by April 22.  Thank you in advance for helping out.

 

 

 

 

 

Women and Parkinson’s: Closing the Gender Gap in Research and Care

When I first experienced PD symptoms, they were explained away as the stress of a working mom. I was prescribed medication for anxiety and the eventual diagnosis of Parkinson’s was not made for another two years. – Carol Clupny, MS, Women and Parkinson’s Advocate

Five years ago, a question was posed to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (now the Parkinson’s Foundation) by a woman with Parkinson’s Disease:  “Why are women with PD treated as little men?”  Most research did not include women, medications tested only on men were given to women in the same doses, symptoms varied, and more often than not, it took women much longer to be diagnosed and then treated for PD.  This one question led to the Women & PD Initiative hosted the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation in September 2013.  I was one of 25 women who attended and it changed my outlook on life with PD.

A year later, I was asked by Ronnie Todaro, MPH, Executive VP, Parkinson’s Foundation, to be part of the leadership team, along with Allison W. Willis, MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Neurology and of Epidemiology University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and Megan Feeney, MPH, from the Parkinson’s Foundation, to explore these issues more deeply in order to identify what was needed for better care and treatment of women with Parkinson’s.   This nationwide study titled The Women and PD Teams to Advance Learning and Knowledge (Women and PD TALK)  was made possible through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Award (3998-PDF).

A research and care agenda was derived from 10 regional forums, as well as a national forum, hosted across the United States, to understand the experiences of women with PD. This agenda reflects the priorities identified by women with PD, medical professionals and care teams at these forums. The purpose of this agenda is to promote research and care practices that enable women with Parkinson’s disease to maximize their quality of life.   I have included the 9 priority areas that have been identified below.  You can read the entire publication here.

Women and PD Research Needs

Research

  1. Inclusiveness: Parkinson’s cannot be fully understood without increased representation of women in PD research, the mechanisms, progression of and treatment response.
  2. Relevance: Parkinson’s research must examine the effects of biological sex — including sex hormones as they relate to PD risk, progression and response to treatments.
  3. Quality: Existing data should be pooled and analyzed for information about women with PD.

Care

  1. Accessibility: Parkinson’s care must be more accessible to women. Programs should target health, wellness and management of PD and should help women feel comfortable and included.
  2. Personalization: Parkinson’s care should be personalized to women. Biological and gender/cultural differences influence PD health outcomes and programs should be designed to address these differences.
  3. Communication: Medical professionals and women with PD should utilize shared decision-making tools to better communicate and work together to identify goals for treatment.

Education and Empowerment

  1. Self-management: Provide women with Parkinson’s with the knowledge and tools early in their diagnosis to maintain a desired quality of life.
  2. Shared Responsibility: Care teams should better understand the needs and priorities of women with PD, being more involved and not relying on the woman to understand all aspects of her disease.
  3. Advocacy: Additional education efforts are needed to increase public awareness about PD.

I personally want to thank everyone who attended our 10 Forums and the National Forum, along with Ronnie Todaro,  Dr. Allison Willis and Megan Feeney, who worked so hard with me to ensure the success of this project.   My hope is that with this agenda, we now have the tools to reach out to physicians, other health care professionals, family members and anyone else who helps to provide care and treatment of women with PD, so that we, as women with PD, will no longer be treated just as “Little Men”.

Is There a Coming Pandemic of Parkinson’s?

pan·dem·ic\/panˈdemik/ adjective: occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population  “The 1918 flu was pandemic and claimed millions of lives.”   noun: an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population: “a pandemic outbreak of a disease”

The alarm that there could be a “pandemic” of PD was sounded last week in a report in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, “The Emerging Evidence of the Parkinson Pandemic”  by E. Ray Dorsey, Todd Sherer, Michael S. Okun and Bastiaan R. Bloem. (Mr. Twitchy, always on the lookout for Parkinson’s news, ran across the study today and sent me several articles today based on this report.)

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-07 at 2.39.35 PMThe authors* are all highly respected researchers in the Parkinson’s world.  They have been following the growth of Parkinson’s Disease since 1990.  From 1990 – 2014, the number of people with Parkinson’s Disease worldwide doubled to over 6 million.  The authors predict that those numbers will double again to 12 million by 2040,  They say that “The Parkinson pandemic is fueled by aging populations, increasing longevity, declining smoking rates, and the by-products of industrialization.”
Yes, the population is aging.  Life expectancy has increased by 6 years in the last 2 decades and will most likely continue to increase, putting more people at risk for PD after age 65.  The impact on our health system and support systems will be enormous as the number of people with advanced PD increases.
Declining smoking rates???  Many studies over the years have shown that smoking decreases the risk of PD by about 40%.  As smoking rates decline, there could be an increase in PD.  However, if you are not a smoker, please don’t consider starting just to reduce your PD risk.
The “by-products of industrialization” include pesticides, solvents and heavy metals. However, they emphasize that exposure to these agents is preventable in the workplace. The big question is, how many employers will take the necessary steps to protect their workers from being exposed.  This is definitely a cause of PD that can be reduced.
But the news is by no means all doom and gloom.  Quite to the contrary.  According to two articles, one from Science Alert and another from Eureka Alert, researchers are getting closer to finding what actually causes Parkinson’s, and many new treatments for PD are being approved every year.  We may not have a cure for a while, but we are getting closer to slowing down the progression of PD to make our lives much better.
Against that background, the Dr. Dorsey proposed that the Parkinson’s community form a “PACT” to Prevent, Advocate for, Care, and Treat the disease through understanding the root causes (environmental, genetic, and biological), expanding new care models that seek to bring expert care to all, and developing new highly effective therapies.  They point out that, the most effective therapy we have today (levodopa) is now fifty years old. It is time for something new.  Now.
Pandemics in the past, such as — polio, breast cancer and HIV are a fewe recent examples — have been reduced successfully and substantially because of activism coming from the community.  We can both prevent potential the PD pandemic and help those who already have it by supporting research, participating in clinical trials for new treatments, and raising awareness about Parkinson’s.  The key, the authors say, is that we all work together to accomplish this goal.

*E. Ray Dorsey, Department of Neurology and Center for Health+Technology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY, USA.      Todd Sherer, Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, New York, NY, USA.       Michael S. Okun, Fixel Center for Neurological Diseases, Program for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, Department of Neurology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.   Bastiaan R. Bloem, Radboud University Medical Center, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, Department of Neurology, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.