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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.

Stepping Out

Terri Reinhart

Plié [plee-AY] verb. Bent, bending. A bending of the knee or knees in dancing. 

I'm still enjoying dance. It agrees with my body. In fact, my body is enjoying dancing so much it has decided to practice steps whether I intend to or not. Lately it's the plié. That's when you bend your knees slightly. The movement is supposed to be done gracefully, but that's not always what happens. It would help if my knees would inform my brain when a practice session is about to begin. Instead, they plié without my permission and chaos ensues, at least for the moment.

When something like this happens, I'm never sure what to make of it. Is it just a temporary fad or have my legs decided on a permanent dance career? Whatever it is, I find myself doing a modified traveling waltz step as I go along: down, up, up, down, up, up; plié, step, step, plié, step, step. After a while, it's not too bad. I can get into it.

This, however, caused great consternation among the security personnel at Denver International Airport last week when my daughter, Emma, and I flew to Chicago. When we travel, I bring my walker along. I don't use it all the time, but traveling is stressful. Stress + Parkinson's = Total Klutz Time, or TKT. When I am in TKT mode, a walker is necessary so other travelers are warned to keep their distance.

The trouble, of course, is the security folks have to go over the walker to make sure I'm not sneaking in weapons of mass destruction in the front basket or the tubing. Their first question to me was, “Can you walk for a short distance without your walker?” Of course I can. I do it all the time, but to make them feel better, I walked as close as I could to the actual scanner before giving it up. Then I was on my own for the next 20 feet. No problem.

I walked through the scanner, lifted my arms in the required manner, and walked out, without a hitch. Emma had to go through twice. She has now learned to not wear jackets with sparkly metallic thread. It confuses everything. I gave her my best patient look. She rolled her eyes.

Once out of the scanner, I went to find the plastic bin with my shoes and other belongings. That's when someone behind me dropped their bin on the metal table.

Grand plié.

Not expecting my knees to bend, I grabbed onto the table. Then the security people took notice and asked me if I was okay. I assured them I was fine, then continued on my way, making another grand plié with every step. Security guards were asking me if I was okay, at the same time I was attempting to communicate to my legs that now was not the time to practice dance moves. Though I continued to assure the security guards I was fine and this was normal, I don't think they believed me. Before I knew what was happening, they had gathered up all my belongings and were escorting me to an area labeled, SECURITY – DO NOT ENTER.

After a moment of panic, I realized they were simply giving me an area where I could fumble around as long as I'd like without bumping into anyone else. They were actually quite nice after that. Maybe they felt guilty for taking away my walker, especially now it had been inspected and no weapons of mass destruction had been found. They even called for an electric cart to drive us down to our departure gate.

Once our flight was ready, we were allowed to board first, giving us first dibs on the overhead storage space. This is when I decided I make a good traveling partner. I briefly considered making this into a career; after all, I have always wanted to see the world. I could advertise: Bring me with you on your next trip and go to the head of the line!

Ah, but airplanes aren't as comfortable as they used to be. Instead of the nice wide seats and acres of leg room I remember from 20 years ago, airplanes are now more like air born Greyhound buses, packed like sardines. That first flight was a bumpy one. There were tornadoes somewhere below us wrecking havoc in Illinois. I turned green and wondered if I should dare move just enough to find the barf bag in case I needed it. Fortunately the trip home was nice and smooth.

Regardless of this, we had fun! I enjoy traveling enough to put up with crowded flights, narrow aisles, and little leg room. Though our trip was for medical appointments, and we were only there overnight, we were still able to see a little bit of the city from the elevated train which we took back to Midway Airport. It was incredible and lovely and it felt like we were flying; only we were much more comfortable. Chicago is beautiful when seen from the train. Hopefully we can see it from the ground some day.

I would go again in a heartbeat; which is good because we're going again next month. We have most of our plans made. Emma will have surgery at Shrine Hospital and we will most likely stay at Ronald McDonald House. Chris will come along with me and stay as long as Emma is in the hospital. Then he'll return home and the two of us girls will stay for another week or so.

I just have a little more preparation to do and I'll be completely ready. I want to learn a few different dance steps before we go, something my legs can practice without causing panic attacks in the people around me.

Sashay anyone?

Sashay [să-shā] verb, informal. 1. to walk or proceed in a casual manner 2. to strut or flounce 3. a journey taken for pleasure

Sounds good to me.