June 16, 2014

Parkinson's Update: Things Are Looking Up!

Only two months ago, I suggested in a post that my five-year honeymoon with Parkinson's disease was over. I'd experienced my first bad fall attributable to PD; I had needed to increase my dosage of carbidopa-levodopa (the standard PD med) for the first time; my housemates had convinced me to cut way back on my driving. I think much of the gloom in my prediction resulted from my depressed mood after the February cruise around South America.

Now, I'm feeling better than I have in a long time. During a regularly scheduled visit last week, my neurologist said he saw no real changes since my last visit.

So, what's going on? Today, I'll focus on the non-pill factors. Tomorrow, I'll discuss the new three-pill combo I believe has really enhanced my sense of my well-being.


This chair remains a centerpiece of my daily routine. I sit here during mindfulness meditation, part of my 3-4am "quiet hour" -- whenever I get up for a bathroom visit. The rest of the time, I continue the meditation while doing tai chi-like stretches.

I also sit here for about 15 minutes in the middle of the afternoon -- a ritual that began when I started using RESPeRATE, the FDA-approved device designed to help lower stress and blood pressure. It worked, but I eventually learned the deep breathing exercise without RESPeRATE's musical guidance.


Here's the display counter at Figs Lebanese Cafe, just a five-minute drive from my house. Patrons can select what they want for dining in the restaurant. Or they can do what I do, usually twice a week, and select items for carry out.

I usually pick three or four things. A favorite is the reddish dish at bottom right -- bulgar wheat. I'll typically include a soup -- either the harira (lentils, chickpeas, and vermicelli in a tomato broth) or the balila (chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin and olive oil in a citrus sauce). How's that for healthy? Even better, it's delicious.

Figs is a blessing, since I'm not a cook. Thirty years ago, I had a new kitchen installed. Months later, I hosted a 65th birthday celebration for a dear friend. When the caterers asked me how to turn on the oven, I didn't have a clue.

So, hurray for Figs!


I get most of my outdoor exercise these days in the garden. I used to be an avid bike rider, and I attribute my relative good health today to that activity. One of my saddest days ever was the day I decided to stop biking because of increasing balance problems. I started walking instead. I enjoyed those walks, but cut way back after a 2011 car crash left me with lower back pain.

Thanks to core muscle exercises -- which I do faithfully -- the back pain is largely gone. Now I don't walk much, because of the balance issues. Last week, my neurologist gave me a prescription for another round of physical therapy with Lisa, my favorite PT. She suggested I use my using trekking poles, not the cane. I'll work with them, since it would be great to resume my neighborhood walks.

My neurologist thinks the best exercise for balance is an old standby -- standing on one foot. I did that one for years, but stopped when I got caught up in the more sophisticated exercises for Parkinson's. Back to basics.

I've been faithful doing my BIG exercises -- the ones designed for people with Parkinson's -- and the core muscle exercises. I know they work. 

I'm convinced the tai chi-like stretching largely explains why I've avoided the muscle stiffness that afflicts many people with Parkinson's.  

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Next up, a report on the big reason my life seems to be on an upswing -- some changes I've made in my meds.


Anonymous said...

Lovely garden John. Do you maintain it yourself or have assistance?
Please can we know more about the way your garden helps you with exercise?

John Schappi said...

Sorry for the delayed response. Somehow I forgot to check the blog comments for a month!
I have a gardener who I call upon for the heavier garden work. But I usually go to a local garden center every week spring and fall (less often in the summer) and like planting what I can manage. I do it because it's something I enjoy. I read often that gardening is good exercise but that's not what motivates me. The big problem for me is being careful about standing up so as not to lose my balance. I've worked with my physical therapist on this but sometimes I forget the cautions.