Parkinson’s Disease and Me
By Garland Davis
It was nine years ago that I diagnosed myself with Parkinson’s Disease.
I stopped for a beer at a neighbor’s house while walking my dog on a Friday evening. My right hand was shaking. I showed it to him and said, “Look at this.”
He asked, “Have you ever been checked for Parkinson’s?” He had seen it before; his dad had had the disease.
Of course, I hadn’t been checked. I had heard of the disease but my knowledge of it was limited to knowing that Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, and (probably) Hitler had the condition. I spent that entire Friday night and well into Saturday on the computer researching PD. I read scientific papers that I barely understood. As I read, I more and more recognized symptoms that had plagued me for two or three years.
I was a runner normally running three to five miles a day and it bothered me that my right arm no longer swung naturally and that my right foot pronated to the right along with a sensation of running in water. These difficulties had put an end to running a couple of years earlier. I had taken to walking instead. My dog and I logged as much as six miles per day. I saw him slow as he grew older. One day while watching him walk with my wife, I realized he had slowed to compensate for me and my slower gait.
I walk with a different dog now. I walk a mile each day. Well, most days. Some days it is difficult and other days difficult is too mild a term to describe our daily trek. The day will come when I will no longer be able to walk the mile, but I will hold that day off as long as I can and when the day comes that I can only make it to the end of the drive, know that I will be taking that walk.
But to get back to my story, I made an appointment with my doctor. I told him I had Parkinson’s Disease and the reasons I believed so. He referred me to a Neurologist who confirmed my diagnosis, prescribed some pills, and told me what to expect as the disease progressed.
Sounds depressing, right? Well, it is. Soul-sucking depressing! One can look at it as a death sentence not knowing the time you will have to wait on death row.
I decided, “That’s not me.” I decided, “I will not give in to depression.” I decided, “Although I am sixty-five years old, instead of retiring, I will continue to work.” And I did for two years, but I was a professional driver and failed to pass the bi-annual physical exam. I was forced to surrender my license.
I envisioned long idle days with nothing to do. Well, as I said, that just wasn’t me. I always had it in mind to try writing and had done well in university courses through undergraduate school and later in graduate school. But those had been business subjects. I had in mind to write poetry and fiction. So, at sixty-seven, I enrolled in literature and creative writing courses at an online university.
A little over three years ago, at seventy-one, I started an online blog where I tell true and fictional stories of growing up in rural North Carolina, tales from my thirty-year career in the Navy, I write historical articles about Naval events, and feature articles by my shipmates. There are currently over nine hundred blog entries. I have had a poem and a couple of stories published in an online magazine that features articles and stories written by veterans.
Every year I travel alone from Hawaii to Missouri to attend a reunion of sailors who served in the Far East. I have done this since 2013 and am looking forward to the 2019 gathering.
What I’m saying here folks is you have it in you to relegate this Disease to a secondary position in your life. Do more than you think you can! Don’t agonize over Parkinson’s Disease or dwell upon it. That is the road to depression and batshit crazy.