Knock, Knock, Knock!
Ross T. Bender
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK! It wasn’t the sort of gentle tap made by friends and neighbors. It was loud and insistent and could not be ignored. When I opened the door a small crack to see who was there, the stranger standing there did not wait to be invited in but admitted himself and announced, “My name is Parkinson. Just call me PD for short. We’re going to be seeing a lot of each other.”
My education about Parkinson’s was about to begin.
I didn’t know anything about PD. All I knew was that something was the matter with my body and I needed to see my doctor to find out what it was.
My family doctor referred me to a neurologist who put me through some tests, including an MRI to see whether my carotid arteries were blocked. They weren’t. None of the other tests revealed much information either.
Since the tests were inconclusive, no clear diagnosis emerged. I learned that PD is hard to diagnose and that the only sure way to make a diagnosis was to perform an autopsy. I decided that I didn’t need to know that badly.
Sometime later, however, I made an appointment with a doctor in the Neurology Department of the Mayo Clinic. He examined me and stated unequivocally that it was PD that was causing these changes in my body.
He further stated that he was very optimistic about the new therapies that are even now on the near horizon and that there is guarded hope in the medical community that PD can be slowed down and perhaps even stopped in its tracks in the near future.
The symptoms with which I learned to cope included rigidity of movement, lack of balance, weakened voice, cramped handwriting, difficulty in dressing, getting in and out of my car, and getting out of an easy chair. I began walking with a cane and later purchased a walker which made it much easier to get around.
I had some good days and some not so good days. On the good days when I remembered to take my medications on time I could move around quite well. On other days I learned keenly the meaning of the term “movement disorder”.
Another lesson is that PD is no respecter of persons. Whenever I ask the question “Why me?” back comes the response “Why NOT you?” Why did PD visit Muhammad Ali? Michael J. Fox? Janet Reno? Pope John XXIII? Or Billy Graham? Each is representative of a large and diverse population. Not that it is a great honor to be a member of such an exclusive club, but it helps to know that you have not been singled out for such a dubious distinction.
Not only have I learned about PD, but I have learned about myself. I believe that I have a choice to think of myself not as an *IN*valid, nor as in*VAL*lid, but as a whole human being who has medical problems which I must learn to manage.
I am still a person created in the image of God. I have much to learn and even to offer to others. I have friends who help me to preserve my personal dignity. At a time when it appears to be threatened or violated through loss of privacy or autonomy they are an effective antidote to depression. They keep hope alive.
Ross Bender’s book, Tending and Mending The Creation: My Experience with Parkinson Disease, can be purchased at the Pandora Press link below:
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