My journey with Parkinson’s disease (PD) began a couple of years before my official diagnosis. I was 57 years old. My first thought that I may have Parkinson’s occurred when a colleague asked me why my hand was shaking. I thought that my sugar level was low, so I went and got a Coke. I now know the tremors in my right hand were not due to decreased sugar levels.
I had other symptoms as well, including cramping and fatigue. My handwriting also changed dramatically and became very small, sloppy and sometimes unreadable. I’ve had to retrain myself to write slowly and legibly. Additionally, my sleeping pattern changed and my right arm stopped swinging when I walked.
About a month or so later, I was at my annual physical and I mentioned the hand tremor to my primary care physician. She asked me to hold my hands out, and eventually said she wanted me to see a neurologist. At that moment, I knew I had Parkinson’s. I made an appointment. After a two-hour assessment, the prognosis was that I had young-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD). February 21, 2017, became my Parkinversary.
Even though I thought I had PD before my diagnosis, I was still in shock. I was scared; the more I read, the worse I felt. But one day, I decided to change my mindset and embrace my diagnosis. I did more research and got involved with the Maryland Association for Parkinson’s Support, eventually becoming a board member. This experience led to me to learn about the Parkinson’s Foundation and Moving Day, A Walk for Parkinson’s. I attended Moving Day Baltimore with my family; it was a great, educational experience.
I ended up taking early retirement due to my demanding, stressful, high-pressure and high anxiety job. Working only made my symptoms more noticeable and advanced my disease progression.
Six years later, now at 62 years old, my progression has slowed. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in! We moved to South Carolina, and I found a gym that offers Rock Steady Boxing. I organized a team for Moving Day Charleston, recruiting the twelve people in my boxing class as team members. Our team raised more than $5,000 to help the Parkinson’s community!
Now I work out about five times per week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday I start with a 30-to-45-minute stationary bike ride or some other cardio workout, and then I go to a Rock Steady Boxing class for about 75 minutes. Tuesday and Thursday, I work out at home for about 60 to 90 minutes. Saturday and Sunday, I do a lot of walking. Exercise is the best non-prescription medication for Parkinson’s disease — you don’t need a referral. I also enjoy taking walks with my wife, who is my extra set of eyes and ears.
I take my Parkinson’s medication as well as anxiety medication. For hobbies, I enjoy cooking (especially grilling) to make healthy meals, as well as going to concerts and tending to my vegetable garden. I make time for family, friends and myself. I also talk to people who are newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s and help them realize that living with PD is an adjustment, but life is not over. Parkinson’s is not a death sentence; if managed correctly, you can still have a good quality of life.
PD taught me that a positive attitude will go a long way, and that we should live life to the fullest. We are all Parkinson’s Warriors, always fighting, always courageous and always surviving. Parkinson’s disease will not define us — our courage and strength will! Keep up the fight!
We Care. We Fight. We Move. Find a Moving Day event near you.