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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.

Life in the Slow Lane

Terri Reinhart

There isn’t a route to school that doesn’t lead us through at least one extra school zone, where traffic is slowed to 20 miles per hour (for my friends overseas, that is 32 kph).  I have to watch out for those.  I was caught by photo radar a couple of times.  It’s terribly embarrassing to get that notice in the mail, not only telling you that you were caught speeding, but providing you with the evidence:  a lovely photo of yourself, behind the wheel of your car, with an expression on your face clearly showing that you were entertaining thoughts of running down the “Slow Children” about which the street signs are giving warning. 

I’m much better now at remembering where the school zones are.  It only took two traffic tickets to etch that into my memory.  Now I gloat when, after slowing down to a 20 mph crawl, a car behind me honks, speeds around me, and is instantly nabbed by the police who are hiding around the corner. 

Slowing down is something I do well these days.  This says a lot; because there isn’t much I do well these days.  Getting out of bed is now a process; a process of making sure that I’m still all here and everything is working as it should.  Feet curling up?  Check.  Walking in little shuffles to the kitchen where my meds are kept?  Check.  Vision slightly blurry?  Check.  Hands swollen and all the joints creaky and painful?  Check.  Anything new happening muscle or joint-wise?  No?  Then everything’s cool.  I’m all together and ready to start the day.  When something new shows up, I’m not a happy camper, but the familiar wonkiness is just fine.  After I take the meds, things will even out a bit and the shuffle will turn into a walk, the feet will uncurl, and I’ll be able to see more clearly.  Life is good!

During the last few weeks, however, the pace of life has suddenly become faster. Just as I get used to starting slowly, making a big healthy breakfast, and going for long walks with my husband, everything has changed again.  This time, it’s not me.  Happily, I’m the same wonky person I have been for the past year or so.  Granted, I do freeze up now and then, but that’s okay.  I’ve learned a little shuffle dance that can get me going again, and if that doesn’t work, I just stand there muttering “oil can” without moving my lips too, and someone quickly comes to my aid.

No, the pace of our lives has changed so that we can help my parents out a little bit more.  I figured they did enough to help me out through the years; I’d better be there for them, too.  I find myself multi tasking again.  Mom’s recent hospital visit made my siblings and me aware that, though Mom and Dad aren’t doing too badly, they will need help if they are going to be able to stay in their house. 

My sibs and I seem to be on the phone constantly, to each other and to various service organizations, attempting to line everything up for them.  We’re also working on cleaning and fixing up their house so that it is safer for them.  Cleaning, packing, phoning, we are talking about carpeting on the stairway and adding an extra hand rail.  Do they need extra hand rails in the bathroom?  Do we need to take up the small area rugs?  We are also making sure their legal and financial paperwork is in order.  We expect, of course, that they will live at least another twenty years, if for no other reason than to prove to us, their children, that all our work is really just a big fuss.   

I tell my Dad that we will go down the road, one yellow brick at a time.  Hopefully, everything will settle into a nice rhythm and will slow down again.  Until that time, when I drive each day, I’m going to savor those school zones where I have to slow down to a crawl.  As I came back from taking my daughter to school this morning, I realized just how nice was to drive slowly.  A car honked at me and quickly pulled around me and sped away.  I started to gloat, waiting for the inevitable police car to come out from the shadows and nab them.  Then, I stopped in mid-gloat.

I had passed the end of the school zone 4 blocks back.