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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.

Believe it or not, I'm an angel

Terri Reinhart

It was just over a year ago when I first wrote about Dancing with Angels.  If you don't remember and don't want to take the time to read the first article, just know it isn't at all like dancing with wolves. Sometimes it can be a little like dancing with stars. There's a book called "Dancing with Cats" and we're not that. There's also a video called, "Dancing with Drones", but you'll have to look it up on your own. 

Angels are the experienced dancers who help out the new class members in square dancing. Our job is simply to be in the right place at the right time - nothing more. We don't teach or give advice.

Just being there. 

A year ago, I was very much in need of someone just being there. My parents had just moved into assisted living - not happily - and I was running back and forth, trying to take care of all the details, clear out the house, schedule doctor's visits, and deal with all the emotions that go along with this huge life change.

I was also trying to manage my own challenges with Parkinson's. This became especially difficult as my caregiving duties made it impossible to continue with my yoga class and the Dance for Parkinson's class. I also desperately needed a regular time away from ...everything. My friend, Linda's suggestion to try square dancing with the Rainbeau's, was perfect.

For my Parkinson's, square dancing gives me an evening of aerobic exercise. I get to practice my balance skills. The moment came a few months ago when I realized I wasn't getting dizzy when I did spins and twirls. That's huge. Okay, sometimes I still get dizzy, but not all the time like I used to. I get to practice remembering which is right and which is left. Don't ask me why, but this skill left with my PD diagnosis. 

It's also a deluxe cognitive workout. Because we don't know what's coming next, we having to be listening and prepared to move right into the next call. We have to use our thinking a lot, but not in the usual way. It's a thinking that has to move immediately to our limbs - our doing. It's always easier to do this if it goes by way of our hearts. We have fun! The Rainbeaus have big hearts. 

As a teacher, I knew that the best lessons were those which included the head, heart, and hands - thinking, feeling, and willing (doing). When I am dancing, I'm not thinking about any of the stressful stuff in my life. There were days when I first started, when I was emotionally so tired by the time I arrived at class, I was close to tears. I always went home laughing. My life has calmed down considerably since then, but it's a lesson I will never forget.

Last week, we danced with only a few short breaks. By 8:30, I was making lots of mistakes. Here I was, supposedly helping out and, when I tried to engage my brain, I found it had already gone to bed, pulled up the covers, and was turning out the light. My PD stuff kicked in and I was doing some involuntary pliés (or dystonic spasms, as my doc calls them). I was glad there were a few other angels around me then.  

Just being there.

(Thanks to animatedimages.org for the free use of these angels)

ROCKY MOUNTAIN RAINBEAUS