My name is Ric Charron and this is my story. One day while at work and walking through the plant I noticed that my right arm was not swinging. I was instantly reminded of the “jitters” I had at night while relaxing and the occasional shaking I experienced. I returned to my office, went on WebMD and discovered that these were all symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). That night I told my wife and decided I was going to visit a neurologist. That was 8 years ago.
Since then I’ve had to retire and struggle with my PD symptoms. When I was first diagnosed I looked like a deer in the head lights of a freight train. I wanted to scream. Inside I was saying what am I going to do, how will I survive, how will I end up? It suddenly became all about me. I was constantly thinking, “so the end of my book, the final chapter will read: Ric ended up shaking, unable to walk and drooling.”
I went for a second opinion and was greeted with kindness and concern. After all, it was all about me. I asked the doctor some hard, direct questions and he gave me some hard, direct answers. He told me that there is no cure. When I asked what caused PD, he said, "we don't know." He suggested that I attend a symposium for newly diagnosed patients. There, my fears became reality and the freight train smashed into me. Before the symposium started, I observed the man in front of me suddenly fall asleep, a women behind me drooling and a man having difficulty walking being led by a service dog. I wanted to run away and hide, but then after a few minutes something stirred inside of me, and I looked again.
This time I saw the man was awake and holding his wife’s hand. The drooling woman was still drooling, but this time met my eyes and smiled, and the service dog had his head on the man's lap as the man pet him. At that moment they became real people, not just PD symptoms, but people who have families, feelings and lives. I felt compassion and concern. Who was I to think that it was just about me? I started to comprehend that it really was about us.
My spirit was stirred and the thought came to me, “Ric, you are going to go through PD one way or another. You can chose to make a difference. You can help promote education and research. You can care about others.”
That day, several doctors along with PD patients spoke and gave encouraging messages. I knew that we were all in this together. Since then, I have had the pleasure of touring the local Parkinson’s Research Center, where a brilliant, young doctor greeted me in his office. On his white board were drawings from his four-year-old daughter, and I realized that he, too, is a real person. He told me he researches PD because he cares about us. He wants to help us.
Soon after the symposium I was at work walking through the plant when I stopped to talk to one of the machine workers and asked, “How are you doing?” He simply said, “I’m doing the best I can with the best I’ve got.” I found those words so inspiring. I knew from that moment on that all my effort would be geared towards “doing the best I can with the best I’ve got.”
For me that meant caring for others, involvement with PD research and keeping an upbeat attitude to encourage my love ones and others with PD. I am encouraged by the unwavering love and support of my wife and three daughters, their husbands and our eight grandchildren. But foremost from God Almighty who through my faith in Him allows me to face each day with the ability to “do the best I can with the best I’ve got."