The first step we have to take in dealing with any problem is getting to know more about it right to the very last detail. However, exploring a diagnosis for Parkinson’s disease may not be as motivational as we think.
Although this is not entirely true. In fact, getting to know the signs of Parkinson’s places us in a position of courage, valiantly seeing through the problem until the very end of it.
What we have to understand about Parkinson’s disease (PD) is that it is a progressive disorder, meaning it develops gradually over time. As defined by Help Guide, PD keeps the nerves in the brain from producing dopamine, a bodily chemical that regulates movement. As a result, tremors from one part of the body will eventually spread towards the unaffected areas, resulting in muscle rigidity, slowing of movement, and deterioration in balance and coordination.
PD specialist and Massachusetts General Hospital neurologist Dr. Aleksandar Videnovic stated that most PD patients are aged 60 and above, placing their life expectancies from 10 to 20 years upon the diagnosis.
Here Are the Primary Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (Help Guide):
Tremors or shaking – These often occur in the hands, fingers, forearms, feet, mouth, or chin. Compared to when you’re moving, the tremors typically worsen when your limbs are at rest.
Slowed movement (bradykinesia). Spontaneous movements are limited, reduced, or slowed down. You might also find it difficult to follow your usual daily routines like buttoning a shirt, brushing your teeth, or cutting food. Walking will also appear like dragging your feet on the ground and taking short steps at relatively slower intervals.
Rigidity, or muscle stiffness – This usually occurs mostly in the neck, shoulders, and legs, and will eventually spread to any part of the body. This limits your range of motion and causes muscle pain that gets worse when you move.
Poor balance – This is otherwise known as the tendency to be unstable when standing upright. Due to the loss of reflexes needed for maintaining posture, swaying backward when standing or turning occurs, resulting in backward falls.
Secondary symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (Help Guide)
- Freezing when walking, usually occurring when taking the first step.
- Small, cramped handwriting that gets worse the more you write.
- A less expressive face. People may comment that you look serious or mad. You may have a blank stare or blink less often.
- Speech may become slow, whispery, or slurred.
- Emotional changes, such as anxiety, depression, and fear.
- Fatigue and loss of energy.
- Loss of sense of smell.
- Trouble chewing or swallowing, drooling, and excess saliva.
- Sleep problems, including waking up frequently during the night or suddenly falling asleep during the day.
Although it is a chronic disorder, research says that PD may not be that much of a fatal condition, given that other health factors and environmental hazards will be observed promptly. Dr. Videnovic adds that actions related to the loss of control in bodily functions prove to be more life-threatening than PD itself.
“For example, because PD affects movement, balance, and coordination, a patient’s risk of falling increases as the disease progresses. Swallowing difficulty, known as dysphagia, is another complication that can develop at any point throughout one’s journey with PD, and this can cause aspiration pneumonia—a leading cause of death in patients,” says Dr. Videnovic.
Life Goes on Even With Parkinson’s
So basically, signs of Parkinson’s or being diagnosed with it does not mean an end to our lives. And a lot of PD-diagnosed people already proved that.
Perhaps the most relevant personality we could gain motivation from is boxing legend, Muhammad Ali. Ali was diagnosed with PD three years after his retirement. And that did not stop him as a fighter. Instead of being crippled to conscience, he chose to fight the good fight, engaging himself in advocacy programs that call for awareness of PD until his passing in 2016. In his living days, he was able to raise funds for research in the 2000s and eventually pursued the establishment of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, a Center of Excellence in Phoenix, AZ.
Also, iconic singer and songwriter Neil Diamond that lives up to this day and still plans on producing more songs. Despite being diagnosed with PD in 2018, his fans still valued him by donating to PD research under Parkinson’s Champions instead of refunding their tickets for a canceled Neil Diamond 50th anniversary concert last January of that same year.
PD patient Michael Church explained that we still can live well with Parkinson’s Disease through his two-part testimony: management and attitude. This supports the idea of the European Parkinson’s Disease Association (EPDA) by providing us with 16 ways to live a full life with PD.
“There is no doubt that a positive outlook, along with determination to overcome obstacles and focus on what you can do, will help you adapt to living with Parkinson’s and, given time and an optimistic attitude, you will be able to continue to pursue the activities and relationships that make your life enjoyable and meaningful,” says the EPDA.
So again, manifesting the signs of Parkinson’s or even being diagnosed with it does not mean the end of the world. Instead, this gives us even more reason to take care of ourselves better and unite with other people that go through the same experience now more than ever. By redefining PD, we choose to live with it instead of allowing it to define us. By redefining PD, we decide not to run away from it and deny it; instead, we choose to face them head-on and greet them like an old friend.
What we learn from this experience is that despite our limitations, we should choose to move forward. We should therefore realize that despite being diagnosed with PD, we still hold an unwavering amount of humanity in our lives that enables us to go beyond what is expected, making every second count and seeing through the disorder until its end.