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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 Don’t Have a Memory Problem – I just forget things - sometimes

Terri Reinhart

Okay, I have to concede, knitting is not really as effective as bicycling when it comes to physical exercise. I did eventually find an article that mentioned knitting and other craft work in the same exercise category as bicycling, running, playing football, and wrestling alligators (I did NOT make that up), but alas, it was an article promoting a particular type of muscle strengthening exercise program*. They didn’t really mean that craft work would be adequate as physical exercise.

My friend, Kate Kelsall, sent me another article, however, that did talk about the value of knitting and other hobbies, such as reading, crossword puzzles, and quilting**. These activities, it seems, help exercise us in a very different way. They help prevent memory loss. In fact, the research showed that elderly people who engaged in activities such as these were approximately 40% less likely to have memory issues. Television doesn’t count and the research indicates that watching a lot of television can actually speed the memory loss process for some people.

I am not elderly yet, but I am still concerned with keeping physically and mentally active. Parkinson’s can definitely speed up the deterioration in both those areas. So far, I am doing very well at keeping mentally active. If there were a knitting marathon, I’d sign up in a heartbeat. I could even go for the triathlon, the big three: Knitting, sewing, and finishing all the puzzles in the comics section. If the championship puzzle happened to be a cryptogram, I’d be the sure winner. I don’t even need to look at the clues. Place your bets now!

My family and friends sometimes think I’m a little deranged. How many women ask for 50 lbs of broomcorn for their birthday? My husband wonders when he sees me come home with yet another small stack of good quality paper. Did I really need it? Maybe not, technically, but it was on sale. And what would I do if they sold out of this particular paper?

I have stacks of paper for making books and bins of wool fleece that, years ago, I dyed myself and hung out on the garden fence to dry. The wool is used for felting projects and for my occasional felting workshop. The workshops are always free and there is a basket for the odd donation for materials used. This means, of course, that when I get a $10.00 donation, I know I can go out and purchase $10.00 worth of paper, or cloth, or wool, or yarn... or I forget that I already spent the money on one type of craft supplies and spend it again on something else. What was that about craft activities and memory?

I figure I have the mental exercising down. This does leave the question of staying physically fit. I already know WHY I need to do this. I already know the consequences of not staying physically fit. I just need to figure out what works for me. In this regard, I am being challenged everywhere I look. The Unity Walk is coming up in New York City. Though I would love to attend and do the two mile walk around the park to raise money for research, we simply cannot afford the plane tickets at this time.  This gives me a perfect excuse to not walk two miles.

Davis Phinney has all sorts of bicycling events for people with Parkinson’s. They also raise money for research. Davis lives in Colorado so I guess I don’t have as much of an excuse to not participate in some of his events. He always has something going on right here in my home state. Bicycling in a Davis Phinney event would be humbling, though. I mean, gosh, Davis raced in the “Tour de France”! Me? I’d have to get out the old Schwinn with the fat tires and clean it up a bit.

The last time I bicycled, I had a hard time riding around the neighborhood. It was work! Our neighborhood is perfect for cycling, walking dogs, jogging, and pushing baby strollers. I didn’t have to worry about dodging cars; I was more concerned with getting around the streams of people, dogs, babies, and tricycles. After about three blocks, I was exhausted and ready to go home, pour myself a glass of wine, sit, and knit for the rest of the evening. I might not be doing well on the physical exercise meter, but the mental/memory exercise meter is off the charts.

This made me wonder. I know that Davis Phinney has no problem keeping up with the physical exercise. But can he knit? Aha! Now, if he sees this and writes back, including a photo of the latest sweater he’s made, I’ll just have to concede defeat altogether. Time to get out the bike. But if he doesn’t, perhaps a challenge is in order. I’ll clean up the Schwinn if he gets out the knitting needles. I’d even supply some for him.

If I can remember where I put them.