Shaking with Debra Magid

We need to live in the moment. Enjoy it while you can

Debra Magid
Debra Magid with Farrel Levy

Several months ago I attended a Fox Foundation fundraiser which was a film screening about artist and designer, Debra Magid, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2012. The film, Shake With Me, was directed and produced by Debra’s son, Zack Grant. My Parkie friends and I really enjoyed the film. Watching it almost felt like the camera had been on us. We thought it gave a very feminine point of view of living with Parkinson’s.

For background on the film, here is the description from Zack: 

What started in 2016 as an exploration of Debra’s growth as an artist in the face of Parkinson’s Disease grew into a larger story of creativity, health, family and the will to cope.  Spanning two years of filming, Shake With Me takes viewers on an emotional and physical journey through the many facets of Debra’s day to day life.  Time and the unfolding realities of a degenerative disease dictate Debra’s constantly evolving views on her diagnosis.  Whether she is creating art in her studio, taking a boxing class specifically for PD patients, or talking about how PD has impacted her friends and family, Shake With Me presents a truly raw and honest look at what it’s like to live, endure and succeed despite a life changing diagnosis and a future that is entirely unknown. 
The film is making it’s rounds on the festival circuit and will screen August 8th – 17th at the HollyShorts Film Festival in Hollywood, California. For more information on screenings and and to watch the film’s trailer please visit www.shakewithmefilm.com.

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I had the opportunity to interview Debra a couple of weeks later. What follows are the highlights of that interview.

Twitchy Woman (TW): I was there with several Parkinson’s friends. We loved the film. It was lovely what your son did for you.

Debra Magid (DM): Wasn’t it? I was just amazed.

TW: We all thought it gave more of a female point of view. Did you feel that it was that way?

DM: I never thought about it that way. I can’t wallow, I just have to move forward and do the best with what I have. I guess that’s a feminist point of view.

TW: I don’t think men would be as forthcoming with how they feel on film.

DM: My son made the film over several years and he was quite secretive about it initially. I kept asking if he would show me something and he kept saying “it’s a work in progress. It’s not ready.” So it was a real leap of faith for me. For my birthday he gave me the 3 minute trailer and I was just blown away. The first time I watched it, I cried. I thought it was so beautiful. He gave me the chance to speak openly and honestly about PD in a way I hadn’t done before

TW: We are the caregivers, we are not used to having them take care of us.

DM: Luckily, so far, that hasn’t been needed. You get the diagnosis and you figure out a way to live with it. My attitude about my Parkinson’s is if you ask me a question, I will answer it but I am not going to say “this is what I am thinking about. This is what I am afraid of.”  That doesn’t do anything for me. If I have to  freak-out I know enough Parkinson’s people who I can go to. My best friends will always listen to me, but they can’t understand.

When I first told my son I have Parkinson’s, I think it hit him out of left field. He had no idea what to make of it. He had no way to process it…. He had not even noticed the shaking.

When I first told my son I have Parkinson’s, I think it hit him out of left field.

TW: How many years after you were diagnosed did he approach you to do the film?

DM: I was diagnosed in 2012. I didn’t tell him for probably a year. In 2016, he was  taking a continuing education class in the city. He came to me and said he was doing a documentary for the class project and would like to make a short film about me. He said he had been thinking about it for a while.  What started as a 5 minute class project grew into a full documentary

TW: If someone else had asked you about filming you, would you have been as open?

DM: I don’t think I would have been interested. It was my son. He would come to the house on Sunday afternoons, put a mike on me and follow me around with a camera. I don’t think I would have been as open with a stranger.

TW: How does your family feel about all of the publicity you are getting?

DM: They are all very excited. My son is thrilled. He sees it through two lenses. One as a producer and one as my son celebrating with me. He is hoping this will turn his career towards being a director. Things are really happening for him now because of it, so we are both thrilled.

TW: How does your daughter feel about this?

DM: She has been away in Australia for most of the past year, so she hasn’t been to one of these public screenings yet. She is very supportive. My husband is also very supportive.

TW: It’s hard for our kids to realize that Mom isn’t always 100% . They expect you to be like you always were.

DM: It is hard for the children to acknowledge that I have Parkinson’s and I am slowing down in some ways. Or is it just that I’m in my 60’s and am slowing down anyway? We’ll never know.

Maybe I am in denial, but I just can’t envision that I am going to end up in a wheelchair. If it happens, I will deal with it then. I see  no point in spending the next 10 years worrying about it.

TW: You were diagnosed in 2012? How long before that did you start noticing symptoms.

DM: I first noticed my left hand shaking in March, 2012 and ignored it, hoping it would go away. By the end of summer,  it didn’t  stop and I started seeing doctors. I saw three doctors before I was prepared to accept the diagnosis.  I still have symptoms only on my left side after 7 years. I see people who tell me that, after 15 years it is still only on one side. That inspires me.

TW: Are you still working?

DM: Yes. I am a designer. It wasn’t till about a month ago when Shake With Me was in the ReelAbilities film festival and the local NBC News station interviewed us, when I came totally out of the closet. I had only told friends and family, not clients, until that point.

TW: What accommodations do you use?

DM: I have difficulty controlling my left hand when typing, so I use a voice system for emails  and texts. For the most part I don’t have to make accommodations.

TW: How long ago did you start your artwork again?

DM: You have to find someway to handle this terrible diagnosis. When my youngest child went to college, I needed to do something, so I went back to making art. The moment I walked into the studio I wondered why I haven’t been doing this for the last 30 years. It felt so natural. It took a while to get artistically back to where I was comfortable. I think it is what keeps me grounded and  happy.

TW: Do you find it is off-time for PD when you are painting?

DM: Yes. I don’t think about anything when I am painting. It is the only time where I am free. If I shake, I don’t even notice it.

TW: What advice would you give other people with Parkinson’s about living well with Parkinson’s?

DM: You have to find something that makes you happy. You have to live in the moment because there is such huge uncertainty. You don’t know what tomorrow brings, so we had better enjoy today. I think PD, like any serious illness, makes you stop and evaluate your life. Parkinson’s makes you ask questions. I feel really lucky because I have a mild case and can do most of what I want to do. I know it won’t be that way forever. I see no point in obsessing now about a future possible decline

TW: What came across in the film to me is the positive attitude that you have. “We need to live in the moment. Enjoy it while you can. ”

Watch the trailer by clicking on the image below.

To see more of Debra’s artwork go to http://www.debramagid.com

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.

“Listen to your body!”

We are finally getting caught up from our trip to Japan. Since returning home, Twitchy Woman has gotten a lot of press. This is very exciting!!!

Just out in Doctor’s offices is a magazine published by Health Monitor. The “Guide to Living With Parkinson’s Disease” is distributed free to doctors offices in the US. The article: “We’re doing what we love!” features me along with two other women with Parkinson’s.

Unfortunately this guide is not available on-line, only in print. If you would like to see a copy of the entire magazine, please email me at twitchywoman18@gmail.com and I will send a PDF copy to you.

Parkinson’s Life, an online magazine based in London, published “World Parkinson Congress 2019: the travels of ‘Twitchy Woman” on June 20.

Photo from WPC with friends and Parky is featured in the blog post.

Farrel, Sharon, Elpidio, Naomi, Parky and Clara in front of Soaring with Hope for PD

The same photo of Twitchy Woman with friends at the WPC also showed up this week on Speakmedia’sImages of the Month” for June. Speakmedia is the parent company of Parkinson’s Life.

I want to thank all of you for being loyal readers. None of this would have happened with out you. Your support, comments, emails, etc., have encouraged me to continue writing Twitchy Woman over the last 4 years. Let’s keep the dialogue going.

!

More thoughts on the WPC: Diet and Nutrition

 

One of the best sessions I attended was Microbiome and the Diet in PD. There were many sessions this year that focused on Microbiomes and the theory that alpha-synuclein actually starts its devastating journey in the gut and eventually travels upward to the brain in PD.

The first speaker, Dr. Viviane Labrie, of the Van Andel Institute, addressed this issue. She says that constipation or GI tract problems can occur up to 20 years before motor symptoms. Alpha synuclein aggregates may be stored in the Appendix, and you can actually see it go up the GI tract to the Vagal nerve and into the brain. Studies show that everyone has this aggregate in the Appendix, but there is 3 times more in people with PD.

The second speaker, Dr. Pascal Derkinderen stated that Parkinsons is a GI disorder, with many slides to prove his point.

But the highlight of the program for me was Laurie K Mischley, ND, MPD, Phd, from Bastyr University.   She says that nutritional needs are different for each person. According to Dr. Mischley, diet is what you put in your body, including toxicants. Unfortunately, in addition to other issues,  malnutrition is a huge problem in PD, with a much higher incidence than in the general population

Dr. Mischley’s goal in her ongoing study is to look for things in your diet that influence your progression on the PRO-PD score. The average person starts at about 580 and progresses about 50 points per year. This usually correlates with patient perceived quality of life.  You can find out your PRO-PD score here.

What can you do to improve your outlook with PD? She cited one simple example to illustrate her point: she found that PwPs eating 4 cups of vegetables a day do better than those eating just 2 cups.

If you are 20 years into your disease, you can still change the rate of progression if you change your diet. The earlier you start the more impact a change in diet will have. She says that organic food does significantly decrease the pro-Pd score. Look at the next slide to see which foods will have a negative impact on your progression of PD.

Finally, Dr. Mischley says that social health is a nutrient. Someone who gets out and socializes usually does better. Isolation is a major problem.  Studies have shown that loneliness is single biggest cause of Pd progression.  People with friends do much better on the Pro-PD scale.  Those who are lonely, fail to thrive.

See my photos of the slides below for more information.  Or go to Dr. Mischley’s website to learn about her research.

More tomorrow…..

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Continue reading “More thoughts on the WPC: Diet and Nutrition”

Keeping your Parkinson’s under control when your life isn’t

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.

African Proverb

It seems that once you think everything is under control, something happens to set you back. You are feeling so good about how you are doing, that you forget that you have limits and take on too much to do. (I admit that I am way too guilty of this). Parkinson’s lies in wait until you make that misstep and will suddenly torment you and increase the severity of your symptoms, or bring you a new set of symptoms to deal with.

On the other hand, maybe life is out of control. You have been doing too much and not taking care of yourself. You moved, your child got married, you suffered a loss. You may have felt organized at first, but at some point you realized you are in over your head. You just can’t do everything the way you used to without feeling it afterwards.

You find it hard to make plans because you just don’t know how you are going to feel any given day. One day you feel great, the next night you don’t sleep and fatigue keeps you down the next day.

Finally, You miss exercise for a couple of weeks because you are sick, on vacation or you just don’t have the time. At some point you realize that your tremor has been getting slightly worse every day, or you have become much stiffer. You feel as if you are on a downward spiral. Your meds are not working as well as they should, but you really don’t want to increase the dose. You just don’t feel good, and it is difficult to explain exactly what is troubling you.

What do you do to get out of a downward spiral?

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1. Learn to say “no”. Get help where you need it. At home and/or at work. Don’t take on a new project that you know will be overwhelming. It’s ok to slow down a little. I know its hard – I am guilty of overdoing it, pretty much all the time. But remember, you are living with a chronic disease that won’t go away because you are too busy to acknowledge its presence.

2. Take a deep breath – practice breathing exercises, meditation. Parkies tend to be shallow breathers. Get some more oxygen to your brain and clear up the fuzziness between your ears.

3. Get back into your exercise routine. But don’t expect miracles immediately. It took time to get to where you are, so it is going to take some more time to get back in shape and feel the benefits of exercise on your brain again.

4. Get adequate sleep. 4 hours a night is not enough. 7-8 is ideal. However, the last time I think Mr. Twitchy and I ever slept that long was probably in college. We have forgotten how to sleep at night. I have tried sleepy time tea, meditation, yoga for sleep, no iPads, playing games on iPads in the middle of the night hoping to fall asleep, weighted blankets (which do help to some extent) various forms of CBD, etc. etc. It’s ok to take a sleeping pill for a few nights to break the pattern, or at least get a decent amount of sleep for a couple of nights so that you are not a zombie all of the time. Check with your doctor about sleep medications that may be right for you.

5. Get support from your family, friends and PD friends. Let them know how you are feeling and that you need some extra help for a little while. Don’t be a martyr.

6. Check your diet. Are you eating too much protein too close to taking your meds? Has the sugar monster has taken over your diet? If you are not sure what you should be eating, a Mediterranean diet is always a good place to start. Or check with a nutritionist. Dr. Laurie Mischley has done a lot of research on Parkinson’s and diet. Go to her website for more information

And if none of these things help, know that you are not alone. There are always Parkies on-line somewhere who are not sleeping either and are happy to chat in the middle of the night and commiserate with you.

I finally met Parky friends who I had met online, and it reinforced the fact that our common bond of Parkinson’s brings us together – and that we provide unconditional support for each other.

Twitchy Woman was featured today on Parkinson’s Life, a website for Parkies in Europe and beyond. Check out my WPC Diary here.