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My Parkinson's Journey

In which Terri shares a humorous look at her journey with Parkinson's disease and Dystonia:

For me, illness and health are not opposites but exist together. Everyone has something that is challenging to them. Mine just simply has a recognizable name. My life will take a different path because of this but that's okay. Everyone has changes in their lives that create their path.  I'm learning how to enjoy whatever path I'm on.


Terri Reinhart

When I was in high school, I remember being told that I should enjoy those years while they last because they were the best years of my life. As a teenager, that was the most depressing bit of news I could ever imagine. Those were the BEST years of my life? Really? Thankfully, I learned that it wasn’t true at all. Since then, every day and in every way, it’s gotten better and better. The last few years have been wonderful and, in fact, yesterday was a particularly good day. Yesterday I discovered that, when you are out of chocolate syrup, a small amount of Bailey’s on vanilla ice cream is a decent substitute.


When I have an off day, there’s usually a reasonable explanation for it. I can blame my Parkinson’s or my medication, or something even more obvious: either I had to wait in line at the bank, or my husband decided to make lima beans for dinner. When I was teaching, the off days usually had to do with the behavior of the children. As a conscientious teacher, I would take this personally and decide that I had certainly done something wrong. After all, if the teacher is doing their job properly, the children will behave, right?  There were times when I would be ready to commit myself to the nearest sanitarium (the one with very quiet, private, padded rooms) after 45 minutes of playground duty. After a rant to my assistant teacher, she would look at me understandingly; shake her head, and say, “Mercury is in retrograde, you know.” I would smile and nod, as if I knew exactly what Mercury was up to and why it’s decision to retrograde would have such a disastrous effect on young children.


On the whole, however, I have good days. If I have an off day, I take it personally. I must be doing something wrong. If I’m doing my job properly, the day should go just fine, right?


Recently, I offered to puppysit. I don’t have grandchildren yet, I have grandpuppies. My son and daughter-in-law have two beautiful lab puppies, one black and one chocolate. Rufus and Mosie are as delightful and curious as a couple of young children and just as mischievous. The nice thing is that they can occasionally be put in their kennel for nap time. I can even leave them there and go shopping. You can’t do that with grandchildren.


I had forgotten that I had an appointment for an MRI at the hospital that morning. I didn’t panic. The MRI was only supposed to take 30 minutes. I would have plenty of time to get home, feed the puppies, and take them for a walk, before delivering them back to my son and going to my own class that afternoon. Everything would be fine. Besides, my younger son was home that morning and even if he didn’t really like being woken up at the ungodly hour of 11 am, if the puppies needed something, he was there. He needed to be at his class by 2 pm. No problem. I was sure everything would go smoothly.


I waited over an hour at the hospital. I called and let the school know I’d be late. Then I phoned my son to see how everything was going. It seemed the puppies had gotten sick on the rug and peed in the house numerous times. He had spent the whole time cleaning up after them.  When would I be home? If I didn’t come home soon, he’d miss his bus for school.


In other words, all was well.


I was finally brought in for my MRI. I’ve never quite understood why I haven’t received any superhuman powers yet. I’ve been exposed to magnetic fields, plenty of radiation, and had radioactive dye injected directly into my veins. But I have yet to leap tall buildings with a single bound, turn invisible, or even stretch my arms from the dining room to the refrigerator. What I do instead, is turn into the human pretzel. Somehow the MRI machine triggered my dystonia big time. My arms and legs twisted up so badly after the test, that I could barely make it to the wheelchair, where I was invited to sit while they wheeled me directly to my car in the parking lot. I’m not sure exactly why they thought I was in any shape to drive, but they left me at my car. I sat in the car for a while, waiting for my arms and legs to straighten out again.


Somehow I then managed to drive home, put the puppies in their kennel, put my son in the passenger seat, drive him to his school, and deliver the puppies to my other son. I was very late for my class and, by the time I showed up, half the students had given up on me and left. I was ready for that quiet, padded room.



I'll bet that darn Mercury was up to something.