The World Parkinson Congress and why you should be there with me!

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The 5th World Parkinson Congress will take place in Kyoto, Japan on June 4-7, 2019. These meetings are unique and deserve both our attention and support.

It is not just that the meeting brings together doctors, patients, researchers, caregivers, and other allied professionals together for 4 days to talk about all  things Parkinson’s. It is also not just that there are a variety of session formats and sizes that will highlight new research, models of care, and collaborations that are changing the lives of those living with Parkinson’s today.

What really sets this meeting apart — and the main reason I am going for the second time — is that People with Parkinson’s (PwP’s) are centerpieces and not just observers.  We are welcome to participate in any sessions that interest us.  We are encouraged to lead a session, to submit papers,  posters, videos and other media and messages.  In other words, we are true equal partners and contributors in every sense imaginable.  (Full disclosure:  I am an official blogger for the conference and in that capacity, will be sharing my experiences there.  But having attended the 4th Congress two years ago in Portland and enjoyed and learned from it immensely, I would be going to Kyoto in any event.  And it’s a trip to Japan.)

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Parkie the Raccoon Official Mascot of the WPC

If it is even remotely possible that you can attend you owe it to yourself to seriously consider it.  What can you expect?

  • The opportunity to meet people from around the world who are making a difference for those of us living with Parkinson’s.
  • The opportunity to get to know other PwPs from around the world and to make new connections and, quite possibly, meaningful and close friends.
  • The opportunity to learn the most up-to-date news about all things Parkinson’s.

There is, literally, something for everyone including PwPs and their caregivers/family.   (I told  Mr. Twitchy not to attend Portland because I worried there would not be anything for him.  Big mistake.  So I asked him to come this time and he is very much looking forward to going.  Did I mention it’s a trip to Japan?)

Registration begins next week on September 10.   The website is https://wpc2019.org/ (or you can just click here).  If you are interested in volunteering, click here for more information.  If finances are an issue, travel grant applications will also be available in December.

One last personal pitch.  Before you go, or even if you cannot go, make sure to participate in our “messages of hope.”  Three women who became good friends of mine at the 2016 WPC– Naomi, Clara and Amy — were so inspired that they created a global project, Soaring with Hope 4 PD,  to promote hope for People with Parkinson’s Disease.  Their goal is to collect at least 12,000 messages of hope to be written on origami Cranes that will be part of an art installation at the Congress.  Let’s all take the time to contribute to that.

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* As an blogger, my “official” duties will be sharing my experiences.  But I hope to do more than that.  It would be wonderful to meet any of you who will be attending and also to create a photo gallery on the blog of as many of the PwPs I meet there as possible.  So please let me know if you plan to go.

 

 

 

Desperately Seeking the Right Information

Without getting too bogged down with real “statistics,” a typical diagnosis of Parkinson’s takes 1-3 years from the onset of symptons.  At that point, the doctor often provides a prescription,  a return appointment in three months and not much else.  The newly diagnosed, probably in a state of shock,  is not only in no condition to ask questions, but has no idea where to begin looking for information

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Those of us who are patient advocates meet many other People with Parkinson’s (PwP’s) who have had exactly this experience at the time of their diagnosis; most of us have had it ourselves.  While there is currently no cure for PD, we know that (1) there are a host of things PwP can do to continue to live well, and (2) the sooner thePwP learns of these things the sooner he or she will be able to do so.   These include, among others, medication, physical therapy and exercise.  And more exercise.  And beyond that, exercise.  Did I mention exercise? Once a new PwP enters this world he will learn that there are a huge number of people who have been living with PD  for years and are living activeproductive lives while simultaneouly fighting the progression of the disease.

 

One of the primary goals of patient advocates — one of the goals for writing this blog — is to reach out to Primary Care Physicians and Neurologists (directly or through their patients) to encourage them to ease the shock of the diagnosis and give more information to the patient at the outset and to encourage the patient to ask questions.  It would be a huge step forward if the medical community only made itself more generally aware of the already available lists of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding Parkinson’s (see below).

An incomplete list of what patients advocates talk to each other about of things we would like to see made standard parts of the initial diagnosis includes:

1.  Making immediate referrals of patients to a Movement Disorders Specialist (MDS) (rather than to a general neurologist).   An MDS receives additional training in Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders including dystonia, chorea, tics and tremors.  They are more knowledgeable than a general neurologist about the latest treatment options, the need for exercise and all things Parkinson’s.

2.  Providing materials from the Parkinson’s Foundation, Michael J Fox Foundation, Davis Phinney Foundation, American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA), local support groups or organizations, and other resources available for the patients.  These FAQs and other materials can help set the newly diagnosed on a better path to help protect and even improve their quality of life early in the process; the sooner a PwP can take action, the better off he or she will be.

3.  Scheduling a follow-up appointment within a month and encouraging the patient to bring along someone to listen and to help ask questions.

4.  Connecting the newly diagnosed PwP with a patient mentor who can talk to him/her on a personal level about living with PD.   Informally, this could be another patient in the community who is a good role model for the newly diagnosed Parkie.  In addition, several organizations have Patient Mentors (or Ambassadors) who are comfortable in this role and are happy to help.  The purpose is to meet casually and explain — and demonstrate — in a casual lay setting that the PD diagnosis is not the end of the world; it’s not even the beginning of the end of a quality life.

5.  Encouraging them, above all, to start moving.  What seems to be a universal truth is that exercise is the best medicine to combat PD.  Of course, the amount and extent of exercise will have to match the PwP’s overall health an fitness.  But that is fine tuning. An unquestionable first, or at least primary, step must be to get as active as one can as soon as one can.

Until the medical community formally embraces these standards, it is up to us in the lay community to make this information available.  NO newly diagnosed Person with Parkinson’s should be sent home with only a prescription and a return appointment 3 months later.  Given the right information and instructions, the newly diagnosed Parkie will be much more prepared much sooner for dealing with their life with Parkinson’s.

 

On a totally unrelated note, I started reading PD blogger, Tim Hague’s new book “Perseverance: The Seven Skills You Need to Survive, Thrive, and Accomplish More Than You Ever Imagined”.  I am about 1/3 of the way through the book and really enjoying it.  I hope to review it in the next few weeks.

Thank you Alan Alda

I decided to let people know I have Parkinson’s to encourage others to take action. I was Diagnosed 3 and a half years ago, but my life is full. I act, I give talks, I do my podcast, which I love. If you get a diagnosis, keep moving!

Watching Alan Alda’s interview on CBS this morning was inspiring and uplifting.  Mr. Alda could possibly be the best celebrity spokesperson, after Michael J Fox, for getting the word out that Parkinson’s is not a death sentence.  In a 7 minute interview, he covered so much of what my fellow bloggers and I have been writing about, and the most important message he gave is to “keep moving.”  I can’t repeat that message often enough, because it has worked so well for me and many other Parkies that I know, for the last 10 years.

Watch his inspiring video here:

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/alan-alda-reveals-parkinsons-disease-diagnosis/

Alda insisted that his doctor test him for Parkinson’s after reading an article about how one of the early signs of Parkinson’s is acting out dreams, which he was doing.   One of his first symptoms a short time later was a twitch in his thumb.  His reaction was not fear.  He wanted to help his family understand the disease and stressed that each person with Parkinson’s experiences the disease differently, even from day to day.

He sees PD as a puzzle to be solved.  You have to figure out the pieces of the puzzle that work for you to carry on a normal life.  It is a challenge that you must meet and you have to find a way to approach it.  He enjoys solving puzzles, something that I enjoy as well.

Alda approaches life with enthusiasm and hopefully will inspire others to do as he does:  keep on moving.  He boxes 3 times a week, plays tennis twice a week, and marches to Sousa music.  He says that marching to music is very powerful for PD.

Most importantly, he wants to get the word out that Parkinson’s Disease should not be feared and that there are things you can do to live well with PD.

“… I think because I’m sort of well-known, it might be helpful to people to hear the message that there are things you can do. You can learn about things and not follow quackery, but find out what real science is coming up with. That helps. It helps to keep moving. It helps to move rhythmically,”

I hope that Mr. Alda will consider coming to the World Parkinson’s Congress next June in Kyoto.  His message of hope is powerful and it needs to be shared with the Parkinson’s community and with the world.

What’s Your Parkinson’s IQ?

You have just been diagnosed.  Or you have been living with PD for 20 years.  How much do you really know about Parkinson’s?  What is your Parkinson’s IQ?  Take this test and find out:

  1.  MDS stands for  a) multiple doctors who treat your Parkinson’s  b) Movement Disorders Specialist c) My Dog Spot
  2.  Dyskinesia is a) Strange, jerky movements b) You can’t remember song titles c) Bad dancing at the Disco
  3.  A DaTSCaN is what?  a)  a CT scan for Dogs  b) a brain scan that helps diagnose Parkinson’s  c) I have no idea
  4. What are internal tremors ?  a) shaking in your house  b) small tremors before an earthquake  c) the feeling that you are shaking inside your body
  5. Dystonia is  a) uncontrollable and intense muscle spasms  b) bad sounding music  c)you are tone deaf and cannot carry a tune
  6.  Parkinson’s can be caused by  a) pesticides  b) genetic mutations  c) traumatic brain injury d) sometimes we just don’t know  e) microbes in your gut f) all of the above
  7. Everyone with Parkinsons has visible tremors. a) true b) false
  8. Women account for what percentage of people with Parkinson’s? a) 10% b) 35%. c)50% d)75%
  9. The average age of onset for Parkinsons is a) 40 b) 50 c) 60 d) 70
  10. Research has shown that Exercise is one of the best things you can do to live well with Parkinsons. Which of the following exercises are recommended? A) running b) swimming c) yoga. d) boxing. e) dancing f)cycling g) tai chi h) all of the above I) none of the above
Correct answers: 1 b,  2 a, 3 b, 4 c, 5 a,  6 f,  7  b,  8 b,  9 c, 10 h

How did you do?

0-5 You need to read to the end of this post and then take a look at some of my favorite websites and books about PD

6-8 Almost an expert, a little more studying and you will be a……PreviewInstanceData.jpg

9-10 PD Superstar! You can write this for me

The Answers:

  1.  MDS stands for Movement Disorders Specialist, a neurologist who has received extra training in Parkinson’s Disease and other movement disorders.  If you are currently seeing a neurologist, you may want to consult with a MDS  occasionally to make sure you are getting the right information and treatment.
  2. Dyskinesias are involuntary, erratic, writhing movements of the face, arms, legs or trunk. They are often fluid and dance-like, but they may also cause rapid jerking or slow and extended muscle spasms. They are not a symptom of Parkinson’s itself. Rather, they are a complication from some Parkinson’s medications. (Parkinson’s Foundation website)
  3. DaTSCAN™ is a specialized imaging technique that allows doctors to capture detailed pictures of the dopamine neurons in your brain. This technique involves the use of a radiopharmaceutical agent (a chemical compound containing an isotope, or radioactive element). The radiopharmaceutical agent is injected into a vein and taken up by the brain’s dopamine cells. The cells can then be detected through SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scanning. In this way it is possible to determine whether there is a reduction in dopamine cells, which usually occurs in the presence of Parkinson’s disease. (Michael J Fox Foundation)
  4. Internal tremors seem to be a well kept secret among People with Parkinson’s.Internal tremors are shaking sensations felt inside the body. They occur without visible movement, which external tremors produce.   A person may experience internal tremors in the trunk, arms, legs, or internal organs.
  5. Dystonia is a sustained or repetitive muscle twisting, spasm or cramp that can occur at different times of day and in different stages of Parkinson’s disease (PD). People with PD most commonly complain of a painful dystonia of the foot on their more severely affected side. (Parkinsons Foundation)
  6. Most people have Idiopathic PD, meaning there is no known cause.  A small percentage have a genetic mutation (LRRK2, PINK1 or GBA), traumatic brain injury or pesticide exposure as their cause.  Finally, the latest research shows there may be a connection between microbes in your gut and PD.
  7. Most people with PD do not have visible tremors at the beginning  They may have stiffness, Dystonia or other symptoms that are not readily visible.  Some people with visible tremors do NOT have Parkinson’s.  They may have Essential Tremor or some other type of tremor.
  8. Men are diagnosed more than women by a margin of about 2:1.  However, it often takes women much longer to get a diagnosis, especially if pre-menopausal. (more on that in a future post)
  9. The average age for onset is 60. Although aging increases the odds of having PD, we are not all old.  Persons diagnosed under 50 are considered young onset or YOPD.  Michael J Fox is a prime example of someone diagnosed at a young age.
  10. Exercise in any way, shape or form is recommended, as long as you do not do something that will cause injury.  Start slow if you have been inactive for a long time, either with a physical therapist or personal trainer.  The more intense exercise you do, the better, showing longer lasting effects.  Walking the dog, briskly, PD Dance classes, PD Boxing classes, yoga classes are just a few suggestions.  Find something you like so that you will continue to do it.  Just do something everyday.  You will feel better, get out of the house, and maybe even find a support group among your peers.

The bottom line is, to live well with Parkinson’s, you need to do some homework.  Get out and exercise, meet other people with Parkinson’s who you are comfortable talking to, read about Parkinson’s (but not too much).  There are a lot of resources available to you. Most importantly, know that you are not in this alone.   There is a large community of people with PD whom you can connect with in support groups, exercise classes or on-line.  With their help, you too, can become a PD Superstar!

The California Parkinson’s Disease Registry and other things

First, I want to thank all of you who expressed concern after my blog post last week.  It was a very stressful week which definitely had an effect on how I felt.  I saw my Movement Disorders Specialist on Thursday and she assured me that downloadI am doing ok, I just need to get more sleep and reduce my stress levels.  She suggested meditation, which I have tried before, but never seemed to get into it.  I will try again and hopefully will be more successful.

The California Parkinson’s Disease Registry

Beginning July 1, 2018, a new California Parkinson’s Disease Registry (CPDR) will be implemented.   The California Health and Safety Code (HSC) 103860-103870 requires healthcare providers diagnosing or providing treatment to Parkinson’s disease patients to report each case of Parkinson’s disease to California Department of Public Health.   It will be a statewide population-based registry that will be used to measure the incidence and prevalence of Parkinson’s disease.

From the CPDR website:  “Surprisingly, little is known about how Parkinson’s disease is distributed among different population groups and whether the patterns of disease are changing over time.  California’s large and diverse population makes it ideal for providing important information about this disease.  CPDR will expand our understanding of Parkinson’s disease to ultimately improve the lives of those affected.”

Why do we need Parkinson’s Registries?

When a large population of people have a disease like Parkinson’s disease (PD), it’s essential to have accurate numbers of how many people have the disease, where they live and why they have it. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, this information helps researchers, healthcare professionals and even legislators determine how many resources should be allocated to addressing and treating a disease  Currently, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has no firm numbers for the incidence of PD in the United States, which has been estimated to be about 500,000- 600,000.  The last major PD prevalence study was completed 40 years ago in 1978.  Because the risk for PD rises with age, the number of people with Parkinson’s is expected to increase dramatically as the Baby Boomer population ages,  The Parkinson’s Foundation Prevalence Project estimates that 930,000 people in the United States will be living with PD by the year 2020. This number is predicted to rise to 1.2 million by 2030.

What the Registry does NOT do:

  • Disclose individual patient information
  • Report you to the DMV
  • Jeopardize your current or future medical care

A quick search on the internet showed that only a few other states currently have Parkinson’s Disease Registries, including Nebraska, Utah and Washington.   More states need to create PD Registries soon, so that they can plan for the increase in services and resources needed for treating PD as the population ages.  If your state does not have a registry, contact the Michael J Fox Foundation or the Parkinson’s Foundation to find out about lobbying your state legislators to create one.

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There are a growing number of best Parkinson’s Diseases blog lists popping up on the internet.  The latest one is  from Everyday Health, an online Health magazine.  The list consists of 10 blogs that they call “truthful and inspiring.”  I am proud to be one of the ten and congratulate the other bloggers chosen.   There are many very good blogs out there, so if your favorite is not on this list, it may be on another.