Source: Photographer Dave Stahl, from my phone
Parkinson’s Disease, the neuro-degenerative disease owned by Michael J. Fox, Linda Ronstadt, Janet Reno, Neil Diamond, Ozzie Osbourne and many other names you may recognize, is a disease of movement, as well as a pain in the ass and many other places. But I AM grateful that it isn’t something that will ever kill me off. The saying is, “It won’t kill you, but you’ll die with it.” In other words, since there is no known cure, it doesn’t go away. I was diagnosed a little over two years ago. Fortunately I haven’t noticed much deterioration since the original diagnosis. Or maybe it's just been so gradual, I barely even notice.

Each case is a little different. My particular version causes tremors in my left arm—particularly when I’m nervous or stressed. I would never make it in professional poker. Some people shuffle, have their feet feeling as though they are frozen to the floor, have trouble swallowing, get constipated, feel limb pain and weakness, as well as a host of other delightful effects. Most cases involve tremendous fatigue at certain times of the day. For me, it’s early afternoon. After tuning a couple of pianos in the middle of the day, I am toast and need a good nap with my cat. The biggest fear most of those with the disease have is loss of cognitive function: Lewy Body Dementia. Then there’s the 3 am overthink/depression that distills all of life’s problems into a troubling singularity located right in your head. I am happy to say that those thoughts go away pretty quickly once I’ve gotten out of bed, had my medication and a good, strong cup of French Roast.

The drug most often recommended by Neurologists—Carbidopa/Levodopa, originally marketed as Sinimet--provides a fast acting but short-term substitute for the dopamine that the brain no longer produces in adequate volume to allow the brain-body machine to operate properly. The drug helps improve one’s most basic motion functions, such as walking, getting into the car, and other things most people do automatically many times every day, things Parkinsonians actually have to think about as they’re doing them.

The best thing one can do to mitigate symptoms is to exercise. I am fortunate in that I was very athletic throughout most of my life and still ride my bicycle at least 5 times a week and do other physical activity. I’ll never win the Tour de France, but it’s and enjoyable and social activity, effective in staving off the effects of PD. I really feel for those who have been sedentary and are trying to implement an exercise program

As my life since my teen years has been focused on being involved in making music, being able to play the piano and guitar is crucial to my well-being. While there has been a slight loss in my left hand’s coordination (notably rhythm), I feel that this exercises crucial the brain / body connection. Body and soul…

The specific causes of Parkinson’s have been debated for many years, but there has been some consensus that it is triggered by environmental factors such as pollution from certain types of commonly used household and garden poisons, and that those with a family history of PD are the most likely to get it. Onset usually occurs in people in the 60 year old range. Men are more likely to get it than women.

There are organizations such as the Michael J. Fox Foundation and The Parkinson Institute that are trying to find a cure for it. This is fortunate, since the government does not invest much towards finding a cure.

If you’re interested in founding out more about PD, this Mayo Clinic article is pretty informative. Thanks for reading. Take care of yourselves.