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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.

“I Meant To Do That" and other Life Coping Skills

Terri Reinhart

April 8, 2008

I’ve been quite proud of myself lately. I’m pleased with how I’m handling life and all its ups and downs. I have a good attitude, I tell myself. I don’t wallow in self pity, I try to look at the positives, and I laugh a lot. With family and friends like mine, I truly have no excuse for doing anything else. When life hands me a lemon, I make lemonade and all that stuff. So if I am so good at handling life and all its bumps and bruises, it stands to reason that others might be interested in how I accomplish this monumental task. “How do you stay so positive?” one might ask.

I think the answer is that I love life and everything in it! I try to enjoy every day and accept the bad with the good with grace and good humor. I always have good days. I love everything about this world -except lima beans. And waiting in line at the bank, or… or driving 12 miles to the doctor’s office to find out that they had cancelled my appointment! Geez, I hate that! Man…and then having to drive straight to school and “hang out” till my daughter was ready to come home because there really wasn’t enough time to drive back across town to our house, and not wanting to see anyone on the way because I was just so pissed off that I knew I’d burst into tears if I even looked at someone I knew.

I just had an awful day. Horrible and nasty from start to finish. Okay, well, nobody died and nothing caught on fire. The kids are safe and the sun still rose this morning. AND I DON’T EVEN CARE!! MY DAY WAS AWFUL, DAMMIT!

I handled everything in my usual calm, cheerful way.

After my missed appointment, I drove to the school, determined that I would make the most of the day by working on my wooden spoon in the woodwork room. The teacher is gracious enough to allow me the time and materials to do some simple projects. I think he wants the students to see just how much THEY know in comparison. I think it works. On my way, I stopped to say hello to a friend. I wasn’t really in shape to be seen by normal human beings, but this being a good friend; he didn’t take one look at me and run in the other direction. He calmly listened to my rant about my day and then looked at me suspiciously, “You’re pissed off at someone so you’re going to make a wooden spoon. Not something I’d think of, myself.”

My woodworking was cut short as I realized that I had forgotten to bring my medication and I began to have a Parkinson's moment. My left hand was now curling into my chest, my right side was collapsing on me over and over, and my right arm (with carving knife in hand) thought it would be best to fly upwards each time I collapsed, in a feeble attempt to help me maintain my balance. Knowing that this "moment" would last till I got home and took my meds, I felt it would be safer to put the knife down and quietly back out of the room.

We arrived home finally, and I listened to my phone messages. Our phone doesn’t beep or blink or do any of those annoying things that tell you that there’s a message waiting. And there it was: the message from my doctor that my appointment had been cancelled. They had called promptly at 8:30 am, while I was taking my daughter to school. Now, the only one I could be pissed off with was me. It didn’t help me regain my humor.

I made it through the evening. We had leftovers for dinner and I decided that my daughter would have to deal with her homework on her own. I secluded myself in my workroom and began to sew my books together. After I finished the third book, I started to feel better. At least I had accomplished something in my day. And when the green thread broke before I was finished sewing and I couldn’t find any color besides pink to finish, I told myself, “I meant to do that.”


That’s what the 6 year old boys always say. After spending 18 years teaching kindergarten, I know it’s always the same. They do something totally insane, like climb to the top of the swing set and then jump down. No matter how they land, SOMETHING is going to hurt. With eyes watering and jaw set, they rub their knees, get up slowly, cradle their broken arm, look me in the eye and say, “I meant to do that.” There was something magical about this. Somehow, it made everything okay. This is what they WANTED to do and if something got a little hurt in the process, well, those things happened. Rub the knees, get up, sniffle a bit and run to play. (Unless their arm is really broken.)

Tomorrow I will go back to the doctor for my appointment. And I will remember to check my messages. I will stay away from lima beans and I won’t go to the bank. And if by chance, they cancel my doctor’s appointment and I don’t get the message, I will drive out there, give everyone my greetings and then visit the new thrift store that opened up across the street. And if anyone asks, I’ll just look them in the eye and say, “I meant to do that.”