Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Happy Valentine's Day to me and my Parkinson's!


(757 words)

I hadn’t been on a blind date in more than 30 years. I wasn’t seeking companionship. I wasn’t needy or desperate. My life was fulfilling. And then there was this:

I was married. Had a couple of kids. A dog. The whole nine yards (and, no, none of the nine yards was mowed, raked nor landscaped, but that’s another story).

Clearly, on Valentine’s Day 2018, I wasn’t expecting to be fixed up with a companion who’d from our introduction dominate my thoughts with my nearly every breath.

But that’s what happened five years ago next Tuesday when a gallingly insensitive tech called to brusquely inform me that I had Parkinson’s Disease. She told me my new mate is incurable and hinted my ability to feed myself was about to come to an end. 

But we were right away hitched. There would be no ring ceremony. No Fanfare. Northing in the paper. No Facebook posts. But our devotions became mutual. Despite the lack of formality, there was no getting out of it. 

It’s like we shook on it.

Well, I shook a bit. But that’s just what Parkinson’s Disease can do to you. 

It’s peculiar to me that I don’t write more about the thing I think about the most,  practically round-the clock. I’d never want to depress anyone.

And I won’t do that now, I promise.

But five years is a take-stock anniversary and on Valentine’s Day it’ll be five years since I was informed I am one of the roughly 60,000 adults diagnosed with PD each year. Average age of diagnosis is 60. I was 55 (I turn 60 — 60! — on the 15th).

So how am I doing?

Pretty damn good. I’m learning there are much worse things you can get than Parkinson’s (and, yippee, I’m still eligible for all them, too, btw).

Apparently, I look great. That’s what many people tell me. “Man,” they say, “you look great.”

I’ve taken to deflecting the superficial praise by saying, “Oh, you should have seen me in the 8th grade!”

It’s true. I was a very handsome child. Winning smile. Roguish charm.

Then — boom! — like that it all  went away. In one of my life’s more profound cruelties I think my charm went away almost the exact instant I began getting erections.

But now that I have PD, I am once again looking good. The state of my sex drive does not matter in regards to our primary topic. Lusty ambitions aside, I’ll never be able to screw Parkinson’s the way Parkinson’s is going to screw me.

Or maybe not.

My neurologist — and that I even have a neurologist of my very own chagrins — says I’m beating Parkinson’s. Those are her exact words.

“You’re beating Parkinson’s,” she says.

I tell her I feel like I’m distracting it. I feel like I’m on a trap door with a rusty hinge. I could at any moment tumble into the abyss.

Guess what? We’re on the same trap door! Life, my friend, is a precarious crap shoot.

I said when I was diagnosed my goal was to appear symptom-free for so long all my friends will begin to think I made it up just because I crave attention.

So far, so good. I’m beginning to understand PD is very individualized. I don’t want to say mine is mild but, clearly, I’m on a healthy plateau. She says exercise and a positive attitude are shared characteristics among those who keep synptoms at bay..

I exercise for about an hour every day. Or let’s just say I’m physically in a Planet Fitness for an hour a day. I’m only actually moving weights or my body around for about 40 minutes a day. That’s enough.

And apparently I have the perfect mindset to combat a progressive neurological disorder. For now. One fall, one prolonged and out-of-control tremor, and I could sour overnight.

It dawned on me not too long ago that my defining characteristics are that I have the heart of a pound puppy and the brain of a free range chicken. 

It’s been a hindrance when it comes to providing for my family but a blessing when it comes to perspective.

See, I still consider myself a very lucky man. My symptoms are difficult to detect, I remain hopeful about the future and I still take delight in all the little things that enrich even an under-achieving life like mine.

And, man, I really look great.

Subscribe to my “Use All The Crayons!” newsletter — just $5 month/$50 a year — and get all my best stuff delivered straight to your inbox!


Anonymous said...

Keep sharing your story, an encouragement to so many. I’m still sharing “crayons,” and you’re still using yours.

Chris Rodell said...

Thank you for encouragement and the tangible support. Bless you!

Laura Martin said...

I have a friend with PD. She decided from the very beginning that she was not going to have PD. She launched into even more exercise and has a solid attitude. You are an inspiration, dear writer. I think it's because you live in color!

Chris Rodell said...

Why, thank you, Laura. Such a sweet thing to say. I'll try and live up to it. And I hope you're doing great!