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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.

Voodoo dolls and squeaky wheels

Terri Reinhart

My daughter and I decided on a knitting project that we will work on together. We’re going to make Voodoo dolls. Now, I’ve never actually heard of anyone KNITTING a Voodoo doll, but we’ll give it a go. Don’t worry; we’re not targeting any one person with this project. We’re targeting a whole group of people. Our Voodoo dolls will all be dentists.

As I said, we’re not targeting any one person or even any one dentist with this project. The dentists that we have all seem to be very nice people. It’s just that my daughter and I are convinced that their object in life is to torture those of us for whom cleaning our teeth is not a twenty four hour per day priority. I tried to argue that it’s hard to pay attention to teeth when you have another doctor telling you that you should have brain surgery. My dentist just smiled understandingly and told me that I needed to have my tooth extracted.

Having a tooth extracted doesn’t sound so bad. The meaning I found in the dictionary for “extract” is: “to draw out by effort”. That just means that the dentist will be working hard, right? They forget to mention that they will be knocking on your tooth with a hard hammer like instrument, wrenching it back and forth, and finally yanking it out of your jaw. They tell you they will numb things up and you shouldn’t feel a thing. Afterwards, in my case anyway, the dentist told me that the tooth was very inflamed. Perhaps that’s why I could still feel it even after 27 shots of Novocain. I’ve learned that next time (and I’m afraid there probably will be a next time) I will ask to be a little sedated. Hopefully the dentist has nitrous oxide. If there were ever a drug I could abuse, it would be nitrous oxide. A little of this lovely stuff and suddenly my dentist looks good, I’m floating slightly above the chair, and I don’t care what they do to me as long as I don’t have to move.

I’m not fond of dentists at the best of times, you may have noticed. And that means I avoid them whenever possible. Unfortunately, I was also born with a predisposition towards rotten teeth. 

Thanks, Dad. 

My dad had dentures by age 30 and when I started having lots of cavities early on, he simply smiled and told me I was taking after him. I was not amused and was sure that he was wrong. After all, this was the same man who told me that eating mashed potatoes would put hair on my chest. I didn’t eat potatoes for years and I’m still not fond of the mashed variety, which is too bad, because with my teeth the way they are, it’s something I could actually eat.

I knew, however, that my teeth needed attention. The problem was there were other bits of me that needed attention, too. And that was just me. My family also had needs. It becomes a matter of the squeaky wheel getting the oil – or something like that. So, until the teeth started to complain, they were shoved to the far end of the to-do list. They remained at the far end while I drove my son to physical therapy appointments, my daughter to the orthodontist, and I went back and forth between the neurology clinic and all the various evaluations needed to see whether or not DBS brain surgery was the appropriate treatment for me.

I finally made up my mind that I’d had enough doctoring and I was determined to stay far away from anything or anyone medical for at least six months. When I received my diagnosis, everything I read and heard about Parkinson’s told me that I should not let this disorder rule my life. I was seeing my life become a series of trips to clinics, therapies, and clinical studies. I wanted to just simply BE for awhile.

So my teeth remained at the far end of the to-do list as we fixed plumbing problems and made sure the car continued running. We only have one car. If it has a squeaky wheel, it gets immediate attention.

A year later, the teeth finally figured out the squeaky wheel thing and they decided to squeak loudly. Maybe I dawdled a little too long?  They haven’t stopped squeaking and I think there are at least a few more that want to abandon me as a lost cause. That upset me at first. Maybe I am taking after my dad in the teeth department? But after pondering awhile, even the thought of having all my teeth extracted wasn’t entirely negative. It would eventually mean one less doctor to see.

In the meantime, I will insist that my dentist see me tomorrow. Teeth are squeaking loudly enough that the bottle of whiskey is looking very tempting. And I’ll call and schedule my daughter’s oral surgery. Yet another one required for her orthodontic work. We were not pleased.

We’re still going to work on our Voodoo dolls.