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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.

Wetting Yourself and Other Fun Things to do with Parkinson's Disease

Terri Reinhart

..or How to have your tea and drink it, too.

I was trying not to panic this morning. I was out with a friend and had a large cup of spicy Chai tea as we sat outside and enjoyed a beautiful spring morning. Then the wind came. It wasn't a nice spring breeze, it was a Wyoming wind that had lost its way, found itself in the middle of Denver, and was pissed off. My knitting went flying off the table and as my friend bravely attempted to return our mugs to the kitchen, I wondered how far it was to Oz and whether the wizard would help us get home.

Soon after we left, a new problem arose. The wind had picked up every bit of pollen, dust, and other allergens it could find. Revenge. I don't know why this particular wind was out for revenge. I mean, really. It was its own fault if it took a wrong turn at Laramie and went South instead of North, but it was and it sandblasted us with the ingredients for a major allergy attack. I started to sneeze.

I started to sneeze and I couldn't stop. Problem number 3 - I spent the rest of the trip in the car trying to hold a pleasant conversation while sneezing every few seconds and praying frantically that I wouldn't pee in my friend's car. 

Any woman who has had babies knows the difficulty in controlling dribbles while sneezing or coughing. Parkinson's just makes it worse, much worse. I talked with my doctor about this a few years ago. She recommended exercises and a small dietary change.

"Are you drinking tea? Tea is a diuretic and it will make the problem worse. Don't drink tea."

Don't drink tea? Tea? I sat with my mouth open, totally baffled. Give up tea? That's like asking me to give up water... or air... or knitting. I have Chai running through my veins. Fortunately, there's another possible way of dealing with this which doesn't require giving up anything. Urinary incontinence pads. Like large menstrual pads, only much more absorbent. Sounds insulting, you say? YOU wouldn't want to admit to wearing these? Hey, if it's that or give up my tea, I'll do it. 

I'm done with being embarrassed about wearing pads. It's better than the embarrassment of soaking my pants, which I did last week when my husband had to do the Heimlich on me one more time. I changed clothes and put "Grandma diapers" on the grocery list. My husband does the shopping as I tend to wear out before making it to the produce section. He's very happy to purchase anything I might need, even if it comes from what some consider to be the embarrassing part of the store. 

Now we find another challenge. Where do you find incontinence pads and how do you tell the difference between those and menstrual pads? They're not labeled! Look at the boxes when you're at the store next time. Okay, some are, but it's in the small print. What you see are words like "overnight protection", "ultimate absorbency", or "thin and light". What you usually don't see are the words "menstrual" or "incontinence". It's not easy for most guys to know which is which and, trust me, menstrual pads aren't enough to cope with a large mug of chai tea and an allergy attack. 

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Okay, most women know these by the brand names, but our husbands might not, and of course, there are many men who also have Parkinson's and have problems with incontinence. Hey, companies, could you please label these products properly? I don't want to make it a guessing game for my husband when he goes shopping. "Menstrual" and "Incontinence" are not dirty words.

We're pretty weird in our culture about these things. If it's a normal bodily function, we invent ways of talking around them. I grew up learning to call my menstrual period, "my friend", as in, "my friend came today". Even that was said in a whisper and only to another female. One woman I knew described her period as "an angel of God coming down to say 'not this time, honey'".  We certainly don't want to admit we can't always control our bladders. Even though a lot of people go through this (though most would only admit to little dribbles) wetting ourselves is equated with getting old and senile. Nice words for getting old don't work when you're talking about peeing your pants. Senile, decrepit, doddery, feeble, in one's dotage. 

I made it through the morning without mishap, even though I had run out of incontinence pads and my husband had brought home the wrong ones from the store. Hopefully the wind will die down, too, or at least find its way back to Wyoming, where they're used to that sort of wind. 

I sneezed. I peed. I changed. All in a day's journey with Parkinson's and Dystonia.