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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.

Flying

Terri Reinhart

I got an ad for funeral insurance in the mail today, addressed to me. It offered $20,000 tax free cash to my family, in the event of my imminent demise. I decided to dispose of it quickly. I don’t want my family to start thinking of what they could do with the money.

 

One of the great benefits of having Parkinson’s, I’ve always said, is that I don’t have to do things like run a marathon. I’ll happily let others do that! I’m built for comfort, not for speed. One of my friends has tried to tell me how much fun it is to go skydiving. He says it makes you feel like you are flying. I tried to tell him that flying is when you go up. If you can see the ground coming up at you, you aren’t flying, you’re falling. I’m well acquainted with falling already, thank you very much.

 

However, when little things like this ad for funeral insurance start coming at me, there is a small part of me that wants to rebel. When a salesman was trying to sell long term care insurance to my husband, he suggested that I may well be in a nursing home, five years from now. I glared and thought....And this would be about the time you graduate from high school?

 

It’s not just the ads. My body has also begun to turn against me again. It happens from time to time. Something new will begin to present itself, usually due to my Parkinson’s. Then for awhile, everything is in flux. Is this just a fluke? Will it go away? Is this part of my Parkinson’s or is this something else? Which doctor do I go to for this one? If it doesn’t go away with time and/or new medications or therapies, then it may be time to adapt to a “new normal”.

 

Part of my new normal is arthritis in my hands and feet. It’s far worse in my hands and there are many mornings now when I cannot move them without pain, but I get up and stretch them over and over again, working through the pain until they will move a little easier. Being an artist and writer, I would like very much to keep the use of my hands. Let the feet go, if something needs to go; the use of my hands is something I consider vital. I have a grandchild coming, for goodness sake! How am I to get all my knitting done?

 

If I look ahead too far, it can be pretty scary. I’d like to stay very happily in my comfort zone, doing my arts and crafts, and writing to try and make sense of everything. My life right now is a nice, comfortable place to be. However, I know that I will need to face more changes as time goes by and I will need a considerable amount of courage, if I don’t want my world to become smaller and smaller.

 

I also want to be a good example to my children, adult children included. In the world today, our children will need to constantly be willing to go beyond their own comfort zones. More than ever before, they will need to have the courage to put their selves out into the world and connect with people. They will need to be flexible and creative in problem solving and most creative in how they make their living. Jobs aren’t jumping out at them.

 

This means that, if I want to be a good example, I need to go outside my comfort zone – big time. I decided that I should start doing things that I have always been afraid to do. I will start facing my fears in other areas of my life and see what happens. That was the plan anyway. I talked about this with my daughter. She wants me to start drawing more because that’s one artistic skill I do not have in abundance. It is something to try, however, with salesmen predicting my early entry into nursing home care and more ads directed at seniors coming my way every day; my rebellious nature took over and demanded a more challenging deed.

 

I called my skydiving friend and asked him to take me on the XLR8R Bungee Swing ride at our amusement park. I didn’t need to explain all the reasons to him. One of the best things about this friend is that he is so enthusiastic, that when I am with him, I feel like I can do anything. The downside is that his comfort zone is very, very broad. “Cool,” he said, “name the day.” That’s all it took. Was I being courageous? Hell, no! I didn’t even tell my family I was going to do it. I knew that I could easily be talked out of it and, if I wasn’t talked out of it and chickened out instead, I didn’t want to have anyone else know that I failed. If that happened, it would be putting up with enough teasing from my freind.

 

So yesterday, I allowed myself to be put in a harness, along with my friend and his daughter, hauled up 182 feet into the air and then, when he pulled the rip cord, we dropped and started to swing back and forth in huge arcs over the amusement park. Never in my life could I have imagined myself doing this.

 

It was amazing! I loved it! By the time your brain actually registers that you are falling, the fall part is over and you are flying! I actually soared over the park, looking down at all the sorry people who were stuck on the ground. I even put out my arms, briefly. Then we rode on roller coasters and rides that made us spin and go upside down. I concluded that the ride that I had been the most frightened of was actually the one I enjoyed the most. I also concluded that there are a few rides that I don’t want to repeat. I don’t enjoy being upside down!

 

The best part is what this did for my confidence. The future doesn’t look quite so scary after you’ve dropped 5 stories on a bungee cord. My friend says that I need to do a tandem sky diving jump next. Then I would really feel like I’m flying. Who knows? It might not be so bad after all!

 

"Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."

- Douglas Adams 

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWfhP0cOffk&feature=related

(This is not us but it is the same ride. We even forgot to bring our cameras. Next time?)