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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.

Rhythm and Grace

Terri Reinhart

A friend of mine once complained that his girlfriend had signed them up for a Jazzercise class so they would have something they could do together. My friend was less than thrilled. In fact, he ended up by saying that just about anything would have been better than a Jazzercise class. “If she had signed us up for ballroom dancing, that would have been okay. I would've done that, but not Jazzercise.”

I learned a good lesson from this. I had been going about things all wrong. Instead of suggesting, asking, or begging my husband to take a ballroom dance class with me, I should have simply signed us up for Jazzercise. Dancing would have been welcomed after that. I briefly considered telling him that I had done this, just to try it, but abandoned the idea quickly. He wouldn't have bought it. He knows my bladder wouldn't hold up to that kind of exercise.

Nevertheless, I have always been interested in dance, so when the Parkinson's Association of the Rockies decided to start a “Dance for Parkinson's” class in Denver, I was ready to sign up. Chris declined my offer to sign him up as well, out of the noble viewpoint that if he was to come, he would be taking up space that should go so someone else with Parkinson's. I accepted his noble excuse while noting the look of relief on his face.

Yesterday was the first class. I had looked forward to this ever since participating in the demonstration class last month. Because parking was limited in the area, I had the brilliant idea that I could drive to our school and take the bus back and forth to the class, arriving back at school in plenty of time to take our daughter home. In theory, this was a good idea. The bus dropped me off right at the door of the Colorado Ballet. After an hour and a half of vigorous exercise and another bus ride, I walked the two blocks back to where I had parked the car. I swear that each of those blocks must have been at least a mile long. It was my triathlon: walk, ride the bus, dance, walk, ride the bus, walk again. My timing was a bit off but, all in all, I didn't do too badly.

The class itself was incredibly fun! I can't even tell you what all we did, mostly because I can't remember what the steps were called. Our teachers, Private Freeman and Sharon Wehner, are professional dancers and we had a lovely woman providing live music for our efforts. And effort it was. I learned a lot of things yesterday.

First of all, I learned that I function quite well from the waist up. Okay, I knew that already. I know right from left and my arms generally do what I ask them to do. My legs, on the other hand, have no interest at all in cooperating with me. They refuse to obey the simplest commands, especially if it entails knowing which is the right foot and which is the left; or it might have been that they were competing and each wanted to go first. It's not just a physical workout. It also requires that we pay attention to the other members of the group and how we are moving. I am proud to say I did not bump into anyone.

Then the music started and we danced from our chairs, behind our chairs, and then across the room. It didn't matter that we weren't perfect. I was moving to the music and I felt like a dancer! I credit the teachers for this. They treat us as though we are peers and they make it clear that our movements, even if they are limited, are beautiful to them. They didn't have to say this, it was obvious in every way they interacted with us. This could be another benefit of the class.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll start to see my movements as beautiful, too.

It's not surprising that the class is called “Rhythm and Grace”.