UNDER SIEGE: Fighting Parkinson’s Disease
Diagnosed 7 years ago, aged 49, I qualify as a “young onset”
Parkinson’s patient. Patient? I’m anything but. I call myself a
“Parkinson’s combatant” instead. Parkinson’s Disease can strike much
earlier than it did in my case, of course, and the earlier it strikes, the
more you need to organize your defenses from the outset. My father’s
first cousin in Sweden had PD from his early twenties; recalling his
struggles (to the extent I was aware of them), I have some sense of
just how lucky I have been over the past 2 –3 decades.
Age aside, if you have PD, you’re in a fight – and let’s be honest about
this, your chances don’t look so good. What you have is a chronic,
degenerative neurological disease for which there is no cure, only
palliatives, i.e., drugs that address the symptoms, not the disease
itself. This means you can mask the symptoms – for a time. Sooner or
later, those drugs (especially carbidopa-levodopa) will begin to lose
their power, and your ability to lead something resembling a normal life
begins to disappear.
Sure, our doctors will tell you that this is the best time in history to have
PD. Implication: all the current research is bound to lead somewhere.
But I think there is nothing inevitable about it. If someone stumbles
into a cure, it will be like winning the lottery for all of us.
It’s like this: you are the Lord of the March. The castle is surrounded
by an invader. As you look out from your tallest tower, the serried
ranks of armed enemies and engines of war reach all the way to the
horizon. You’ve sent urgent messages to the King, asking him to send
the strongest force possible, but you have no idea whether the
message got through. Face it: chances are, you are on your own.
Still, if you adopt a sound strategy, you can hold out long enough to do
some valiant deeds—and have some fun while you are about it.
You may prefer another image: you’re a wrestler. You’ve been waiting
in the ring for a bit, but now your adversary is climbing over the ropes.
You look up and get a shock: he’s the most enormous sumo
contender you’ve ever seen.
Chevalier or wrestler, your problem is the same. How can you best
marshal your resources for this fight? First, you need to do an
inventory. There are two kinds of resources: internal and external.
Francis, Age 56