Part 2- Diagnosis…Down the Rabbit Hole

320px-Down_the_Rabbit_Hole“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another,” -Anatole France

At first I made a doctor’s appointment because of my diagnosed pinched sciatica nerve in my lower back and wanted a second opinion but things had changed; I now suspected that I was experiencing certain symptoms not associated with nerve damage.

The office set my appointment for the morning of October 29, 2012; asked to arrive early to complete the new patient forms. As I arrived, I sat in my car in silence, the situation seemed too surreal and at the same time permanent. I knew I would see this place again. October is my favorite month and I couldn’t help but think of those lines by Thomas Wolfe:

“All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travelers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.”

I was coming home, being called to reckon with myself. It was time to stop ignoring the disconnect between my body and mind, what were they trying to tell me; time to pay attention to everything that was calling me back, time for me to get out of my way.

Before I knew it I was waiting for the doctor in one of the examination rooms. He walked in and as we traded introductions he took out a pad and pencil and started asking questions about my family history, especially hereditary issues and subsequently my personal history in regards to health. When did I first notice the tremor, what was I taking for sciatica and so on. Then we came to the exercises utilizing my fingers, hands, and arms as well as my legs and feet… walking back and forth in the hall… knee and arm reflexes plus eye to nose coordination… mental activities such as counting backward from 100 by sevens and recalling the months of the year backward. You get the idea that it was a complete workout with nothing ignored.

After the various test, we sat and talked about sciatica and the fact that I did have it. Will it come back and if it did, probably not as severe as the last time. Also, stretching, exercise and good posture and their importance for nerve damage. Indeed, time has proven him correct as any pain I feel today is controllable. But the cause of the other issues I was experiencing like tremor and slow movement is Parkinson’s disease; he was positive about that.

I wasn’t really surprised which did surprise me… in a strange sense I had expected it. You can call it intuition, but I had read as much literature about Parkinson’s as I could so I wasn’t coming to this scenario from a complete state of ignorance. The confirmation did give me an immediate sensation of freedom as most people diagnosed with Parkinson’s will tell you, half the battle is in the knowing. But was I setting myself up?

I saw dark clouds ahead forewarned by countless others from the deck of this vessel. This is a ghost ship of all who have come before me, but I alone must embrace this invisible foe as it has embraced me.

My neurologist… yes I said ‘my’ as in acceptance as I took on my new role as ‘patient’… he and I talked about many things after his diagnosis: medications, physical limitations, cognitive issues, side effects, to name a few. He explained to me that the cause of Parkinson’s is a shortage of Dopamine production in the brain. Dopamine relays messages from the brain controlling body movement. By the time you have your first symptom, you will have lost around 60 to 80 % of your dopamine-producing cells.

In more formal language, Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disorder… Dopamine, a neurotransmitter produced in the substantia nigra… mid-section of the brain which controls movements; its production impaired. The substantia nigra is also part of the basal ganglia, a complex area controlling movement as well as emotions and learning. Current medications can relieve symptoms but not the cause of damage to brain cells or neurons causing a lack of dopamine production. This chemical imbalance leads to a loss of motor skills leading to motor and non-motor symptoms… tremors, cognitive issues, balance etc.

Please feel free to like, follow or comment, if you or someone you know has any connection with Parkinson’s disease.
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JC

I was officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease on October 29, 2012. These are my thoughts on Parkinson's and a variety of subjects.

10 thoughts on “Part 2- Diagnosis…Down the Rabbit Hole”

  1. I’m enjoying your writing and can sympathise. I was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological illness last August after being told I had a bad back for years. It’s a funny thing, but I do notice benefits. Not the least of which is I now have time to pursue writing, reading and other interests (including playing guitar) that I did not have the time for when I led a much busier life. Thanks for sharing all of this. I look forward to following your blog. It’s interesting that you mention buddhism in the next part. I use mindfulness and buddhist teachings in my life and have found them really helpful in coming to terms with the big changes in my life and the enforced slowing down which suits a buddhist lifestyle. Take care and be happy. I’m happy to have found your blog.

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  2. Thank you so much for reading my blog. Yes, less stress and slowing down are very much a part of my new life style. It is a curious thing that an illness is needed to make us stop and enjoy the life we ignored because of our fast passed society. Take care!

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  3. My uncle was diagnosed with P some years back and has done everything to continue on with life. He’s in his 70’s now and my mother went to visit him recently and is afraid it might be the last time. Life is very hard for him now. I, too, have dealt with a chronic illness for many years. I know how difficult it can be to convince yourself to go on as though it is all okay, when it is not. It takes a lot of courage sometimes to keep on living. Most of all it takes courage to keep on dreaming and starting new projects and not left life keep you from experiences new things. That is one reason why I write – to not get lost – to give life purpose – and to leave a part of behind for future family. Who was that crazy lady anyway?

    Like

    1. Thank you for your wonderful comments. Yes, it does take courage especially for the small things that use to be easy. With me it was the same… what are my dreams. And I always wanted to write so with a little encouragement I started first writing about PD and then gravitated to other subjects. In a way I guess I hide behind this blog as I don’t go out as much as I use to. But then again, a writer does the same thing. The challenge is to try to live your life as it is now and that can be a daunting task. Thanks for the follow and I will follow you back. Take care, I’m sure we will run into each other in comments. I wish your Uncle well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. JC, I understand. Due to having to deal with major illness, I too can no longer do the things my head still tells me I can do. My body says otherwise. But still I continue to create dreams. I spend a lot of time inside behind my computer because that opens up an even bigger world that I take advantage of. In addition to 2 blogs, I am writing a book. I don’t know how much you know or read of what I do, but I write about a man in prison. After 10 years of letter writing I knew I needed to write his story. My reason is so he will have a life when he gets out. He could be there for 7 more years yet. I write for him, but it also for me – to have a project that I have to finish no matter what. I spend my life helping others – creating good causes – to have good effects. That is the only thing that changes things. Keep writing and writing. It’s your legacy. The only legacy we can really leave behind is the effect we have on other people. Yes, the challenge is to live the life you have now – to find positive inside the negative – to create value. I think you are already doing that.

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