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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.

Exercise is a walk in the park for Parkinson’s

Terri Reinhart

In April, my daughter and I watched our friend, Teddy, cross the finish line as he completed his first half marathon run.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine running that far, much less doing it in just over two hours.   One of the benefits of having Parkinson’s disease, I have always said, is that no one will ever expect me to run a marathon.  I was tempted to change my thinking on this however, as I got caught up in the excitement and, in that moment, I wished I could run, too. 

Last weekend was the “Shake, Rattle, and Stroll” walk for Parkinson’s disease in Denver.  It was a 5K walk to raise money for the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies – or PAR.  PAR is a great organization.  They offer a number of different exercise classes and many other services.  It’s the emphasis on exercise that really interests me right now.   

Exercise is arguably one of the most helpful treatments for Parkinson’s disease.  One person who believes this strongly is John Argue.  Mr. Argue has been teaching movement and voice for people with Parkinson’s since 1985.  His approach reflects his broad experience with yoga, tai chi, and dance, and is brought with a gentle humor and imagination, as he encourages his students to “make friends with the floor”.   As in our yoga class, the goal is to make us aware of how we are moving. 

Our yoga teacher, Paul Zeiger, led us through some of Mr. Argue’s exercises this week.  As a former kindergarten teacher, I was intrigued when the exercises included imagination.  One exercise had us leaning to one side and picking up the little mouse by the back chair leg.  Then we went to the other side and picked up the mouse’s wife.  Here is where I had my only issue with the verbal instructions to this exercise.  Having picked up these mice, we then were simply instructed in the next move.  I sat there puzzled for a second or two.  What do I do with the mice?  Nearly twenty years of leading movement circles with young children and creating imaginative stories for circle time had its effect, and I had to mentally let the mice go before I could move on to the next exercise.

Joining the yoga class and becoming aware of all the times when I can "exercise" by doing my daily living activities with conscious movement has made a huge difference in how I feel, both physically and emotionally.  People who haven't seen me for awhile are amazed at how much better I look and how well I am moving.  I'm not so sure that I am really moving all that well, but I think what people notice is that I am standing up straighter.  It’s amazing how much more confident I feel when I stand up straight.  The PAR sponsored yoga class has gone a long ways in improving my quality of life with Parkinson’s disease.

This is why we wanted to support the "Shake, Rattle, and Stroll" walk for Parkinson's disease last weekend.  I was excited about walking, too.  Maybe I was still caught up a little in the thrill of watching the half marathon in April, but I thought that just maybe I could do it. 

The night before the walk, I went over my list of necessary items to bring along:  water bottle, medicines, hat, sleeping bag, camp stove, food, a towel, and a pointy stick.  I started gathering everything together and was just rolling up the sleeping bag when Chris stopped me. 

“What are you doing?” 

I showed him my list.  He didn’t seem to understand why I needed some of the items. 

“Come on,” I told him, “it’s a 5K walk.  That’s over THREE MILES!  You know how slow I am.  What if I don’t finish by nightfall?” 

“Oka-a-ay,” he said, doubtfully, “so the sleeping bag is to sleep in, the stove for cooking, and the food to eat.  Why are you packing a pointy stick?” 

“In case we run out of food,” I had thought that would have been obvious.  I wasn’t sure if there were fish in the lake, but I knew there were more than enough squirrels around.  If we were desperate we could always have squirrel on a stick, roasted nicely over the camp stove.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to take your scooter?” my husband logically intervened. 

I sadly put all my supplies away, except for the water bottle and hat, and we loaded the scooter in the trunk of the car.  Emma agreed to ride the scooter while I walked as far as I could.  The preparations done, we had a lovely surprise a few minutes later, when Teddy called to let us know he’d be joining us for the walk.  Another dear friend, Marie, had also promised to join us.  It would be a great time!

It was a great time.  We warmed up with yoga and tai chi in the park and then started on our way.  I made it halfway through the first 1K before starting into my “losing at Twister” impression then rode my scooter till we were close to the end.  I let Chris take the scooter as I walked across the finish line. 

I know that, compared to a half marathon, that this was just a walk in the park.  I was pleased with my accomplishment, however, and will work towards being able to walk an entire 1K next year.  That’s enough of a marathon for me!