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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



Did you ever have one of those days when you just knew you could do anything? You feel good and confident and if anyone asks if you’d be willing to help with something, you immediately reply, “Of course I will!!” and you mean it.

I must have had one of those days a while back because now I find that I’m responsible for writing the names of all of our high school graduates on their diplomas in beautiful calligraphy. And, that’s not all. The person who writes the names on the high school diplomas also writes the names of the 8th graders on the certificates that they are given at Continuation. I will get them done and I will probably even enjoy it, but there is some humor in giving a calligraphy job to a person with Parkinson’s disease. I’d better be fully medicated when I begin this!

From time to time, I am pretty realistic about what I should and shouldn’t take on. I have learned not to volunteer in a classroom all day or I will be thinking murderous thoughts by the afternoon. That’s not good. I have learned that any heavy work has to be done in short increments, like a minute and a half. Then it’s time to rest. I don’t say that I CAN’T do something. I just find ways to do it little by little.

Then there are other times when I just dream. I get ideas all the time. I suspect it drives my poor husband nuts, but I can’t help myself. I know full well that 98 % of my ideas won’t fly and I don’t expect them to. The fun is in coming up with the ideas to begin with.

When I left my job, I had all sorts of plans. I looked into a number of job possibilities and then looked into going back to school to get a degree in special education. I researched every angle, calling the advisor at the college and figuring out how I could work half the day and go to school the other half day and get my degree in four years – somehow, without having murderous thoughts by the afternoon. I decided I would build a new chicken house and raise chickens, ducks, and geese again. I also looked into putting a walkway in our garden, building up the vegetable beds and planting roses along the fence. I plan on having our garage completely cleaned up and organized by the end of the summer, a bread oven built in back of the garage, a deck built by my studio, and my workroom cleaned. I also want to do volunteer work, travel, pose nude for a life drawing class, and learn to play at least one musical instrument well. I have a wide variety of interests. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even included anything about the long list of artistic projects that I simply must do someday soon.

I did accomplish one goal. We have semi finished our little “studio” building in our back yard and it is home to a few art workshops. I don’t hope to make a living with my art work, I just want to open up the space and invite people to come and work and learn with me. I enjoy creating art with other people.

Now I also have all sorts of advisors coming up with ideas for me. My former colleagues would like me to make crafty things for their classrooms. One friend has been trying to convince me (unsuccessfully) of how much I would LOVE skydiving. I have a new exercise coach who has told me that I WILL start doing Tai Chi. He’s a big guy, from Delaware, and he’s into Martial Arts. He’s going to be calling me regularly to make sure I’m following through, so I think I will. Another friend feels that I should be relaxing and watching lots of movies. He also checks up on me regularly. And my younger son says I should go back to college, but not yet.

When we drive down Federal Blvd. in Denver, there is a large billboard showing a photograph of a woman receiving her college diploma. The ad announces “The World’s Oldest College Graduate: Nola Ochs, age 95.” My son wants me to beat that record. He wants me to go back to college, but not before age 92. Then after four years, I’ll have my degree at age 96. He’s also added another idea. “But mom,” he says, “you really should live in the dorm.”

I still keep my hatchery catalog. Maybe someday I WILL have a nice chicken house again. I will also keep my gardening books, my wood working books, and my college catalogs handy. I plan on coming up with lots more ideas, too. If it happens that we do have more than one lifetime on this earth, I’ll be in good shape. I’ll have enough to keep me busy for a long time!

But first, I’d better get those diplomas finished.