Fear, disbelief and shock are the emotions I remember most strongly when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in January 2004, I knew nothing about Parkinson’s other than that I thought it was something that older people got and that I would develop a tremor. At 47 and with no tremor but instead a slowness of movement, I didn’t fit either of these perceptions.
I had allowed myself to wallow in my diagnosis for about six weeks when I decided that I needed to take control of my life. I had a choice, I could let the disease define me, or I could work to ensure that Parkinson’s was something that I had but not who I was. My wonderful mother was an inspiration at this time, the recovery she had made from a stroke 8 years ago, which was beyond anything doctors believed possible, made me sure that I too could overcome these physical challenges.
A positive attitude became the core of my wellbeing; it was and still is essential for my good health (both physical and emotional). In addition to this I began to explore different ways to support myself, which would act in conjunction to the medicines I was taking to improve my health.
I became proactive in managing my lifestyle, scouring the internet and talking to others (doctors, physiotherapists, alternative therapists, others with Parkinson’s) to understand what I could do to improve my health. Some of what I found was so simple but made such a difference – for example ensuring that I drank enough water with my tablets and avoiding proteins at certain times which seem to interfere with my medication.
I took a holistic approach; healing, physiotherapy, acupuncture, meditation, diet, singing, exercise, all of these are elements that I embraced. True wellbeing came from nurturing not just my body but also my mind and soul.
If there is one thing I have learned on this journey, it is to find something you are passionate about and whatever it is go for it and enjoy it. As my Neurologist once told me, ‘I can give you a prescription for tablets and I can also give you a prescription to have fun and enjoy life’, both are essential for wellbeing.
I have a choice when I wake up in the morning, to either see the glass half full or half empty. If I see it half full then I am winning. Whether I choose a positive or negative attitude, the reality is that I still have Parkinson’s – how much more joy I have in my life through choosing the positive mind set! This journey for me has been enriched by the love and support I have received from my husband Michael my two children and four step children and their families.
For anyone who is being cared for at present, how much easier is it to smile than frown at those who are caring for you, try it and observe the way they respond! I understand that there are tough days, there are times when remaining positive can be difficult, but working on your attitude and finding supports which work for you will ensure that those difficult times happen less and less often.