April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month.
It is important that everyone at least have enough awareness of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease to know when you or a loved one should go and see a neurologist. I found out, at 41 years old, as Michael J. Fox discovered in his late 20’s, that I had Parkinson’s disease. As the doctor that diagnosed me explained to me, I had all the classic symptoms: micro handwriting, blank facial expression (called masking), arm did not swing when I walked, did not blink and hand shaking. The funny thing is that I did not notice any of these symptoms. AND neither did the 3 doctors that I recently went to for unrelated medical issues. I have found that this is not unusual, but more like the norm.
This goes out to the hundreds of millions of people who have no association with Parkinson’s disease and no idea what it is. Yes, that likely includes you.
Parkinson’s occurs when the brain slows its production of dopamine. It is not until your dopamine level gets lower than 20% that you start to really feel the effects of it. However, unrecognized earlier symptoms may include, among others, loss of sense of smell, vivid dreams, acting out of dreams (I was once a superhero jumping off a blimp into power lines and woke up on the bedroom floor with cuts all over my face from hitting the nightstand with my face), voice unknowingly getting softer, unexplained fatigue and an occasional hand tremor.
Once the dopamine level in the brain gets below 20% of what is normal, you have Parkinson’s disease whether diagnosed or not. Parkinson’s disease can manifest itself in painful muscle cramps, uncontrollable shaking, inability to walk, no longer able to drive, swallowing issues, loss of short-term memory, stress from no longer being able to earn a living, sexual difficulties, freezing up, stiffness, compulsive behavior (gambling), bathroom issues, loss of self-esteem, depression, etc., etc., etc.
This is also Parkinson’s Awareness Month for the many extraordinary people who have found the inner strength that they never imagined they possessed to see themselves the way that I see them: courageous, tenacious, strong, perceptive, kind and, especially, loving. A true community.
I want to dedicate this Parkinson’s Awareness Month to those who have loved ones who have died this past year to be given the awareness that their loved one has not lost the fight, but they simply just ran out of rounds. We win when we have done all that we could, demonstrating extraordinary discipline and inner strength, to live the best life possible for as long as possible. Healthy Food, Exercise, Positive Thinking, Remaining Mentally Challenged, etc.
That’s how we win!!!