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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.

Filtering by Tag: Parkinson's

A Journey through my Dad's Heart

Terri Reinhart

It was a wonderful privilege for my sister and I to sit in on Dad's echocardiogram this morning. An echo cardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart and is often done after someone has had a heart attack. Ever since Dad's mild heart attack on Good Friday, he's been concerned and curious about what the doctor will find. 

We sat down and watched as the technician put the leads on his chest and turned off the light to start the test. Gray, fuzzy images came on the screen. That was Dad's heart? I kept trying to understand what I was seeing. The darkness started to make me sleepy. Dad's arteries, valves, the atria, the ventricles; all were fading in out in grays, whites, blacks. Half asleep, pictures started forming from his heart images on the screen.

It was like seeing pictures in the clouds. What was that? It looked like a small gray man playing a clarinet. Funny... Dad played clarinet. A three leaf clover? An elf playing piano? A hippo eating biscuits? An exotic dancer? 

"Hey," said my sister, "was the dancer upside-down?"

Uh, yeah. I'm not sure whether to be relieved or worried that we both saw an upside-down exotic dancer in Dad's heart. We were both pretty sleepy. 

After the test, the technician was quiet for a minute and said, "Well, if he was a lot younger, the doctor would see all sorts of problems, but probably, he'll want to see your dad in a year." This was not surprising. Will he still be here in a year? I know there's a lot wrong with Dad's heart. I also know there's nothing wrong with his heart.

That's because there's a lot more to see as we take this journey through my father's heart:

such as a small sheet of paper with the names of all four of us kids and a space to mark when we came home from an evening out with friends. Theoretically, this was to make it easier for Dad to get some sleep and be assured he would know who is home. He still got up to check.. every time one of us walked in the door.

A paperback book with a $20 bill stuck inside, handed to one of us whenever we needed a little cash, with the words, "don't lose the bookmark" said quietly.

A brown paper bag containing peanut butter and butter sandwiches, which meant Dad had surprised one of us by making lunch for us.

His heart is a little sloppy now and it's getting crowded in the veins. If anyone ever grumbled about our house being sloppy or crowded, Dad would laugh and say, "you should've see the house I grew up in!"

There are stories and stories and stories - about his time in Africa, his time on board ship during World War II, about his imaginary friends, Mr. Brown and Andy, and about attempting to play his clarinet with false teeth.

And there is our mother. They've been married 62 years and he's been in love with her the whole time. Even through the most challenging time of their marriage, when side effects to her prescription drugs caused psychosis, Dad would say, "I just want to live one day longer than Mom, so I can take care of her." 

Dad and I share a few things. We've both been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Because of this, we've been able to have our DNA testing done through 23 and Me. I perused our reports to see what we have in common and found: we share 49.9% of our DNA, we both consume a lot of caffeine, we're both light sleepers (hmm), we both have dark eyes and detached earlobes, and we both have straight dark hair.

It doesn't say anything about our hearts, but regardless of how it's working now, I hope I inherited a heart like his; even if it comes with an upside-down exotic dancer, clarinet playing guy, hippo, piano, and three leaf clover.

 

To cry or not to cry - that is the medication

Terri Reinhart

While Parkinson's disease can take away so many of our abilities, there are other skills it seems to enhance. The ability to cry is one of them. We can cry in any situation, any place, in front of anybody. We can cry while watching comedies or commercials, listening to a lecture on mathematics, or seeing a cute puppy. 

My natural skill in this area was advanced anyway. After my diagnosis, I could have been a superhero, if crying could be considered a super power. Unfortunately, crying has not yet been accepted by the Board of Animated Mutants (BAM), Panel Of Weird Writers (POWW), or even the Board of Associated Super Heroes (BASH). Yes, it remains, to this day, an unappreciated skill at which I am embarrassingly talented. 

Until recently when a change in medication took me from Kwazy Wabbit mode to embracing The Way of the Tortoise. 

There were a few odd things that came along with this medication change: dry mouth, throat, nose, and eyes... and nightmares. I didn't notice all the changes right away. I was moving so much slower and my nervous system had calmed down to where I wasn't reacting so strongly anymore. Little did I know, it had also taken away my one and only superpower. (Okay, that's an exaggeration. I still have my ability to turn into the Human Torch every time I get a hot flash. Yup. They're still hot enough to roast marshmallows.)

Last week, a dear friend of mine died. I was sad, but I didn't cry. I didn't cry when I was told or when I read the obituary. I didn't cry at the memorial, even when they played a song my friend had once sung to me. Usually I feel embarrassed when I cry. On the day of the service, I was horrified! What a terrible friend I must be to not even shed a tear! I pulled out a kleenex and dabbed at my eyes, pretending I was tearing up. There just weren't any tears. 

This upset me enough, I came home and emailed my neurologist, asking if this could possibly be happening because of my new medication (Amantadine). She wrote back, starting with "My, you ask the most interesting questions". After she researched a little, she found this indeed could be an effect of the meds. The timing is right.

I'm not going off the Amantadine, but I'll try to stick with a low dose. Without it, my dystonia can decide to run the show. The Amazing Pretzel Woman is not among the accepted Super Heroes, either. It's weird to know my ability to cry can be changed by a medication. Even if I can't change this, it's good to know there's a reason for this mystery.

And, at least I don't feel like a terrible friend anymore. 

 

 

 

The Way of the Tortoise

Terri Reinhart

Earlier this year... I came home from running errands for my parents and stopping for tea with a friend and looked through our little free library by our house. We enjoy seeing neighbors and other passersby stop and pick up books. Often, people leave books, too. This day, there were a number of new children's books, including The Tortoise and the Hare.

I've always loved the story of the tortoise and the hare. I identify with the tortoise. He might be slow, but he's determined and focused on where he is going. Yup. I'm the tortoise. Slow and steady. Someone who is dependable. 

Yup, that's me. 

I brought the book into the house with me and set it on the desk so I could read it to the grandkids. Then I put the kettle on, started fixing some lunch, went out to get the mail, chatted with our neighbor, remembered I needed to give them some eggs, went back in to the kettle, which was whistling loudly and sputtering, took the kettle off the stove and finished making my sandwich. I suddenly realized my neighbor was waiting at the door for her eggs. I dashed off with the eggs and an apology then returned to sit with my tea...and book.

Good old Tortoise kicks Hare's ass and wins the race while Hare is hopping here and there, stopping in the meadow to have coffee with his cousin Rabbit, taking a quick nap or two, and dashing over to the store to buy some lettuce and carrots for dinner. He's so busy, he forgets all about the race and, when he remembers, he's already far behind.

Wait a minute. I sound more like the hare. I don't want to be the hare. I'm the tortoise, right? No? Damn.

This spring... Medication change. It's a good change as it prevents the awful dystonic storms like the one that landed me in the Emergency room a few months ago. It's also hard to get used to. I feel heavy.. and slow, both physically and, to some degree, mentally. I can do one thing at a time. If I try to do more, I fail miserably, but I'm not too motivated to try. I feel as though I am carrying a heavy weight. I keep going all day, slowly. I get things done, slowly. If I want to say something, I have to think about it for a while first. I feel like I'm going crazy.

Um... I am the tortoise? Damn. 

I didn't realize how much I was enjoying being the hare. If it wasn't for the fact this medicine really works well without too many weird effects, I would talk to my doc and go off, but I know what I have to do:  learn the way of the tortoise.

Will the heavy slow effects of these meds lessen in time? Can I learn to be a successful tortoise and be the dependable wife/mom/friend I want to be? 

I've always believed that medications are the biggest challenge we face when we have a chronic disorder. If the odd, non-marketable effects weren't enough, there's the challenge of wondering who the heck we are.  Am I a tortoise or a hare? Am I an extrovert or an introvert? Am I happy and positive or depressed and negative? If I'm a tortoise, am I still me?

And the real question is: What is me, the real me, and what about me is just simply due to the chemical changes in my brain and the medications? 

It's not an easy question when you're at the mercy of medications that affect the brain. At one point, I read on a Parkinson's website about how impulse control disorder is a part of PD for many people. It's not. It's an effect of the drugs. Asking about DBS surgery, I admitted my fear of the surgery is due to the possible effects of personality changes and short term memory loss. I was told I was being unreasonable because short term memory loss and personality changes eventually would happen with Parkinson's anyway.

Huh? Even if this is a valid statement, and I don't believe it is, the concern remains. Why risk hurrying that along?

Methinks we're just prone to identity crises. We have had to give up jobs and change the way we live. Some lose their spouses who can't handle living with someone who has PD. Not all of our friends like to put up with us as our health and our meds change. WE don't always like to put up with ourselves as our health and our meds change. We all struggle with the question of who we are and what can we do that is meaningful. 

This last week, I received part of the answer, sort of, anyway. Regardless of anything else, we are the family our children and grandchildren and my parents can count on.  No matter what, I am still Mom, Grandma, daughter, wife. 

And Tortoise. Can't forget the tortoise. 

Canes, Trains, and No Automobiles

Terri Reinhart

I've known it for a long time.  Someday, someone would be telling me to give up my car keys.  I just didn't expect it this soon.  I also didn't expect the news to come from our mechanic.  As bad as this sounds, I'm really lucky.  I wasn't asked to give up my license, just this particular car.  The first mechanic's verdict was, "How attached are you to this vehicle?"  The second mechanic described our car with a string of obscenities.  

Fortunately, we still have Chris' truck and selling the old car for junk helped offset the cost of getting the truck in good repair.  We are now a one pick-up truck family.  I'm opting for a bus pass.

I've been riding the bus all year to go to my classes at the University downtown, and I've really enjoyed it.  The drivers with RTD bus service in Denver have been incredibly friendly and helpful, even when I ride my mobility scooter onto the bus and take up 4 places while paying only half the fare.  I was surprised at first.  Are the drivers always this nice?  So far!

What's great about riding the bus, besides not having to look for a parking space on campus, is how incredibly independent I feel as I get off at 16th street mall, downtown.  Especially if I have my scooter, I feel I can go anywhere and do anything.  On campus, it's nice to be able to go faster than the students who are walking.  I haven't run anyone down yet, but I have had a couple of students get out of my way, quickly.  I know they were just being polite.

Lately, I've been using my walker instead, as my scooter needs new batteries.  Those will have to wait awhile.  Until then, I have to admit, the walker is a huge help.  It wasn't easy convincing myself to use it and sometimes I manage to fool myself into thinking I don't need it.  I tried using a cane when I first had trouble walking.  Canes are cooler than walkers.  I have several.   The purple flowered cane works the best, but the ones I really like are the carved ebony canes, one from Sudan and one from Juba. Unfortunately, a cane will often trip me up.  

It's those pliés.  My legs still seem to think it's a good idea to practice dancing at odd times.  Nothing I say will convince them to at least inform me when they decide to do this, so the walker is a good idea.  My only challenge with the walker is in the classroom building.  With nice smooooth tile floors and long hallways, it's oh, so tempting to run a little and jump on for a ride.  

This is not tempting on the sidewalk, especially in the older neighborhoods.  Those sidewalks are not designed with older people in mind, especially those older people whose bladders don't like to be jarred suddenly.  

Back on the bus, I am treated as a very important passenger.  I get to ride the lift up the steps and I can sit up front.  If I have the scooter and another scooter or wheelchair rider is there, we spend the whole ride comparing our vehicles as though they were a couple of sport's cars.  We've immediately become comrades.  My regular bus drivers know me by now and they know where I get off.  

I haven't ridden the light rail in Denver yet, but I took my scooter to Chicago last fall.  Frontier Airlines staff were exceptionally nice and I was able to ride all the way to the gate.  Once in Chicago, we took the buses and trains.  I love the trains in Chicago.  They are rather old, though.  Riding with the scooter meant letting the station attendant know I'd need a ramp.  He or she would go get it, a heavy metal platform, and, when the train arrived, would place it down so I could board safely.  Then the attendant would phone ahead to where I was to get off and alert the attendant there to be ready with the ramp.  

At this point, I still have my driver's license and I can still drive.  When the time comes for me to give up driving completely, I want to smile and say, "Sure!", because I know I won't be giving up my independence.  

In fact, as soon as I have new scooter batteries, I won't miss the car at all.

Denver from the Auraria Campus

Denver from the Auraria Campus

Living Well - Exercising the Mind, or Keeping the Marbles Intact

Terri Reinhart

It really is use it or lose it, and this is the one part of the whole mish mash of who I am I'd really like to keep healthy and in good working order. This means keeping it lubricated and making sure I give it frequent tune ups. I was more than pleased when my doctor said she no longer thinks brain surgery is the best option for me. They have yet to perfect the electrodes so they can up and down like My Favorite Martian. I have my standards.

Since an overhaul is not in the forseeable future, this means I'd better take regular maintenance seriously. My husband approves of this, so I'm learning to eat fish, using olive oil, and exercising my brain. Opportunities abound for sharpening the wit, inspiring the imagination, encouraging creativity, and convincing the little gray cells, and white cells, to keep on working. Here are some suggestions:

Audit classes at a local college

You can take classes for credit, of course, but auditing is much less expensive and less work. You don't have to write papers or take exams. If I have to miss a few days, it's not such a big deal.

http://www.cualum.org/services/senior-auditors/

At the University of Colorado in Boulder, any Colorado resident who is 55 years old or older may audit classes for a nominal fee. This year (2012/2013) the fee is $25.00 per semester.

http://www.ucdenver.edu/prospective-students/Pages/SeniorCitizensProgram.aspx At the University of Colorado at Denver, Colorado residents age 60 and older may audit for free.

In both these programs, acceptance is dependent on a space available and permission from the professor. There are a few other limitations, but there are plenty of opportunities. Last semester, I took the class, “Introduction to American Political Processes”. Considering we also had the presidential election last fall, this class was relevant, practical, and taught by a master teacher who had us laughing while we learned. This semester, I am taking a class on World Religions.

Learn a language

After getting to know a Spanish speaking family in Chicago last April, I was determined to brush up on my skills so conversations in Spanish would be easier for me. This was the second class I audited last fall. Unfortunately, I had to drop the class. Two classes were just too much. Fortunately, there are other ways to learn languages which are free and fun.

www.saysomethinginwelsh.com

I'm not sure how many people out there want to learn Welsh, but this is the best language program I've ever experienced. It's auditory; the teacher gives you certain words and patterns, then will speak English phrases, which you will say in Welsh, using the tools you've been given. I was hooked after the first lesson, possibly because I had been saying “I like speaking Welsh”, “I want to speak Welsh”, “I'm going to speak Welsh”, for twenty minutes.

www.duolingo.com

I'm working on German and Spanish with this program. It's fun and easy, though I don't remember the vocabulary as well as I do with the Welsh. They also have French, Italian, and Portuguese.

There's also: www.learnalanguage.comwww.word2word.com,www.123TeachMe.comwww.digitaldialects.com,www.mylanguages.org, and www.omniglot.com. This last one is very useful, especially if you want to learn some very practical phrases like “My hovercraft is full of eels”, “How much is that doggie in the window?”, or “Could you send for the hall porter? There seems to be a frog in my bidet.”

I figured I'd learn Welsh so I could impress my friends. I also figured it would be safer than most languages. How many people in Colorado speak Welsh? Not even everyone in WALES speaks Welsh! I could impress my friends and they'd never know if I made a mistake. That's when I found out I have a friend whose husband is a fluent Welsh speaker.

Learn to play a musical instrument – or SING

Suggestions for easier instruments to learn: Ukelele, guitar, bodhran, mountain dulcimer, autoharp, rhythm instruments, and tapping your feet. Don't forget your voice. It's the easiest instrument to access and it's always with you.

Brain games

Crosswords puzzles, Sudoku, Cryptograms, Scrabble, Clue, Solitaire, there are many choices out there. There are brain puzzle sites on the internet which claim to tell you your “brain age”. If you take these tests, make sure you have a mouse. Some of them are timed and trying to trace your finger around the pad and put things where they need to be can age you quickly.  I really prefer games to play with my family, but there is one internet game I am addicted to.

www.wordsqared.com – this is a must for scrabble fanatics, but don't attempt to play it on a notebook computer. You need a large screen. 

Read books, write real letters, write stories

Take a holiday from email and write a real letter to someone, in your own handwriting. Write down some of the stories you remember from your childhood or from when your children were small. Write poetry. Write songs. Don't worry about whether or not it's good. That doesn't matter. It's yours.

Have grandchildren who visit and a puppy in the house

This is the best game of all. See if you can remember where you put your cell phone, laptop, purse, glasses, and anything else you put up while the grandkids were visiting and/or the puppy was playing. After several hours of entertaining the above, see if you can make a phone call and speak coherently. Deduct points if you introduce yourself as Gwampa or Gwamma.

After I've done all that, I reward myself: a glass of wine, a hot bath, some good chocolate, and then I forget everything for awhile - guilt free!

 

If I was a car, my husband would have traded me in by now

Terri Reinhart

Today is the official last day of the year. Everything, even the planet, is a year older. Time is taking its toll on our household. During 2012, our washing machine went out on us twice, our dishwasher gave up completely, everything needs to be painted, and my doctor tells me I need my electrical works rewired.

If I was a car, my husband would have traded me in by now. Let's face it, would anyone keep a car around if the shock absorbers were shot, the heating and air conditioning came on by themselves, often getting mixed up as to which was which, and the transmission had gone haywire? It's not as if we get rid of cars when the ashtrays get dirty, but there comes a point.

Our old Toyota had a sticky valve in the carburator. When it stalled, I immediately turned on the hazard lights and popped open the hood. Our son, John (age 10), got out, took off the air cleaner and stuck a pencil into the valve to keep it open while I restarted the car. Then he put everything together and jumped back in. We kept that car going like that for a long, long time.

Another old Toyota had problems with the ignition. If we took the key out, we had no assurance we could get it back in and turn it. We had the same problem with the door lock. No problem. We simply drove the car and left it unlocked with the key in the ignition where ever we went. Either we got lucky, or it was actually stolen many times, driven around the block and returned.

Our Ford van had a lot of miles on it, but we still kept it – until the transmission went out. At first, I would put it in first gear and rev up the engine for several seconds before suddenly it would kick in and jerk forward. Gradually it gave up and refused to go anywhere. By that time, it had over 200,000 miles.

And me? I have to warm up my engine a lot longer these days. It takes at least a couple cups of tea with caffeine. Of course, there's always the chance of flooding the engine. Then we're delayed while I make several trips to the bathroom. Once my engine is running, I try putting myself in gear; however, the transmission is faulty and I often end up going backwards or sideways.

I tend to veer toward the right, which ordinarily means the tires need to be rotated. As I don't have tires, I just keep veering. I think it's my electrical system. At least my mechanic, I mean my doctor says so. She has decided it would be best to get a system in place so I could be hotwired. This would be the DBS or “Drive Better with Science” system. It is run by the “Darn Battery System” which would be implanted in my chest, turning it into a “Durable Boxy Square” 3rd breast.

The fact that the real name is “Deep Brain Stimulation” doesn't help me in the heebie jeebie department. That I've talked to many people who've had this done and speak very highly of it, doesn't really help, either. I'm not ready to do the complete overhaul. For now, I'll make do with the jalopy veering and stalling and crashing.

The crashing has been happening a lot more lately. I won't make any comments on my exterior shape, except it would be worse if I hadn't added larger bumpers in recent years. I admit, from time to time, I worry a little. It's a pain to put up with a beat up old car. Will my husband continue to put up with a beat up old wife?

Not to worry, he says. I'm an old classic and he's sentimental about old classics.

On the town - Terri's first and probably only society column

Terri Reinhart

The night I received the invitation to dance at the Dazzle and Delight Gala to benefit the Parkinson's Association of the Rockies, I went to sleep with I Could Have Danced All Night going through my head. What fun! I felt like Cinderella, Eliza Dolittle, and Angelina Ballerina, only older. Not in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined going to this fancy gala in evening dress and actually dancing on stage in front of people. Not ... in... my ... wildest ... dreams...

The next morning, I awoke with Beatle's songs going through my head. It was a medly of Sure to Fall, Help, and Hold me tight. What had I gotten myself into?

For better or worse, I was committed, and couldn't have refused anyway. How could I say no to having Brandon (Private) Freeman as a dance partner? Private dances with Ballet Nouveau and is one of our Parkinson's dance teachers. It really wouldn't matter what I did on stage, everyone would be watching Private. We practiced a few times and by the night of the Gala, we were ready.

It was worth it! It was worth getting dressed in fancy clothes, worth talking my husband into wearing a nice suit, dress pants, and tie instead of his usual evening wear of sweat pants and t-shirt, and worth wrestling for 20 minutes trying to put on nylons with control top panties. This last one almost did me in. I slid off the bed several times and looked like a contortionist before accomplishing the seemingly impossible task. I blame my Parkinson's.

Our daughter took photos of us and fussed with my hair a little. Then, looking us over, she finally gave her approval, and we left for the Ritz Carlton Hotel in downtown Denver.

It was beyond elegant. We walked in the front doors, greeted by no less than 4 doormen and another man who made sure we knew where we were going. When we arrived on our floor, we checked in and perused the silent auction items while being offered hors d'oeuvres and wine. There were many lovely auction donations; the beautiful water color painting by Carolyn Zeiger was my favorite.

I stopped in the restroom before going into the dining room, you know, to powder my nose and stuff? Wow. Wow. The bathroom was bigger than my last hotel room. They had real cloth towels to dry your hands; tiny ones rolled up and stacked in a basket. There was marble everywhere and even a place to sit by a mirror and... powder your nose. I took a photo.

Cheryl Seifert, director of the Parkinson's Association of the Rockies gave a lovely talk about their work and told us of all the wonderful donors who had contributed to the evening.  We are lucky here in the Denver area.  If you're going to have Parkinson's, Denver is a great place to be.  There is so much support and such a great community. Thank you Cheryl!

The highlight of the evening was when Sue Feingold's son spoke about her experience with Parkinson's disease and how much the Parkinson's Association of the Rockies had helped her and their family. I remember Sue so well from our dance classes. She had a lot of trouble with walking and balance, and very little facial expression. This did not stop her from taking part fully in the class with a delightful sense of humor. The twinkle in her eyes more than made up for any other lack of expression. Sue passed away in May and we will miss her sparkle!

Live auctions are always fun, especially with an auctioneer who is really enjoying himself.  Add to that, a cow walking onstage and a delightful game of heads or tails, and it made for an interesting evening.

The dinner was fabulous. The dance went well, too. At least I can say, I didn't fall and I think I sort of looked like I knew what I was doing. It was about two minutes long and we were accompanied by the wonderful Parkinson's choir, The Tremble Clefs. After the dance, I learned that Private was just as nervous as I was. His boss had accompanied him and so, we had Dawn Faye, co-director of Ballet Nouveau, watching us dance. Dawn is a beautiful woman who reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. She complimented me on my dancing, mentioning my posture, in particular. I blame.. I mean, credit Paul and Carolyn Zeiger, my yoga teachers, for that.

I actually had it easy. If I missed a step or two, no one would have even blinked. I can always blame my Parkinson's.

Death by Parkinson's

Terri Reinhart

Every time I go into see my neurologist, she asks me if I've thought about having DBS surgery. I roll my eyes and let her know my thoughts are the same. It's still brain surgery and I'm not ready for brain surgery. At this, she will remind me of the limitations of my medication and say, “You are young, you know. I'll be treating you for the next forty years.”

I thought about this when I read, once again, an obituary which said the deceased had died of Parkinson's disease. Whenever I read this, I yell out loud to all the people in the newspaper, deceased or not, to inform them, “YOU DON'T DIE OF PARKINSON'S, YOU DIE WITH PARKINSON'S!” This is what I've been told, anyway. What's up? Am I wrong?

Time to go to the experts.

The Parkinson's Disease Foundation says this:

Q: I just found out a friend has PD. I don't want to ask him this question, but what is the long-term prognosis? Is it fatal? (anonymous)

        A: Parkinson's disease is not fatal.

It's disconcerting, to say the least, to see Parkinson's disease listed as the cause of death. This seems to be a widely held belief. One can even look on the internet and find lists of people who have died of Parkinson's. There's a list of celebrities and a list of politicians. There's even a list of chess players who died of this disease.

Wow.

I wonder if chess players are more at risk for developing Parkinson's?

Admittedly, complications of Parkinson's can cause problems which can shorten one's life. Most of the complications are similar to getting old. If we can't move as much, we're more susceptible to things like pneumonia and heart disease. Choking is a danger. There are undoubtedly other complications, but I'll leave them for now. I don't let myself go down that road very often.

I'm not trying to discount these dangers. I've had the Heimlich maneuver done on me four times. From this, I've learned to not eat meat or salads when my medications are wearing off. I've also learned not to get angry and go on a rant about something or someone while I'm eating meat. That's what happened the first time I choked and it had nothing to do with Parkinson's.

There are many other complications of life which can cause death. Remember what Bilbo says, “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, walking out your front door.” If we go about thinking of all the possible ways our lives can be shortened, we won't go very far at all. And, of course, we know staying home and doing nothing isn't conducive to a long life, either. I don't really think about this much at all, not anymore, and not until I read one more article listing death by Parkinson's.

Out of curiosity, I had a look at one of the websites with its list of PD victims. The site is “The Political Graveyard” and contains many different types of lists. I looked at their list of politicians who died of Parkinson's disease. I was pleased to note how much information is included in each entry, including the exact age of the person in years and days.

I was even more pleased to see the average age of the victims. Most were in their mid to upper 80's. The one in his 60's actually died of a heart attack and had Progressive Supernuclear Palsy, not Parkinson's. Then there is Milward Lee Simpson, from Cody, Wyoming, who died of Parkinson's disease at age 95 years, 210 days. If PD is what took his life, it sure took its time about it!  

I'm going along with my doctor, though not necessarily with her suggestion of brain surgery. I'm going to assume she'll be treating me for the next 40 years. That will make me 94 years, 360 days old... and counting.

I realize, of course, this might not happen. Who knows whether my doctor will still be around in forty years.