January 17, 2011

1. Parkinson's has given me a new focus, challenge and cause.

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My best drinking buddy, who knew me better than most, once told me: "You aren't truly happy unless you have some cause you're fighting for." A bit overblown, as many of our alcoholic conversations were, but it's true that I get a great deal of satisfaction out of working on a project that will help others.

I've been involved in several of these projects since my retirement in 1994. But Parkinson's has given me the opportunity to work on something that helps others and myself. In many ways, it's similar to the early years of my alcoholism recovery in this regard. But, unlike Parkinson's, the progressive nature of the alcoholism "disease" can be arrested by simply not drinking. No way has been found so far to stop the progressive decline from Parkinson's. You might think that this would make it depressing to do battle with Parkinson's. But that hasn't been true for me. Nor has that been the case with others, even those who are much further down the PD road than I am.

Michael J. Fox is the most prominent example of this positive attitude. He decided to title his memoir on his first 10 years of dealing with early-onset Parkinson's "Lucky Man." He explains:
"Coping with the relentless assault and the accumulating damage [of Parkinson's] is not easy. Nobody would ever choose to have this visited upon them. Still, this unexpected crisis forced a fundamental life decision: adopt a siege mentality -- or embark upon a journey. What it was -- courage? acceptance? wisdom? -- that finally allowed me to go down the second road (after spending a few disastrous years on the first) was unquestionably a gift -- and absent this neurophysiological catastrophe, I would never have opened it, or been so profoundly enriched. That's why I consider myself a lucky man."

I can only say "Amen!" … and add "Lucky John."

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