Automatic body functions, such as bladder control, shut down. One doesn't have the luxury of endeavoring to maintain one's "dignity." It's simply not an option.
Parkinson's is a brain disorder that causes nerve cells to die or become impaired. Symptoms include tremors, shaking, slowness of movement, rigidity, stiffness and balance problems. It can also manifest itself in a shuffling gate, muffled speech and depression.
The aforementioned lady exhibits several Parkinson's and MSA symptoms. She can't walk on her own; she's unable to eat, bathe or comb her hair without assistance from a caregiver. Her utterances are barely above a whisper. It's difficult to be captivating and charming, which she once was, given those limitations.
These two cruel diseases have collaborated to exact a heavy toll on her quality of life. Little humiliations are recurrent and unavoidable.
But she hasn't given up. She's a fighter.
The lady belongs to a Parkinson's support group I attend. We've both had Parkinson's for about five years but, because of her added complications with MSA, her symptoms are more severe than mine.
A few weeks back I was asked to lead the support group because our skilled facilitators were out of town. I decided to ask each of the 22 attendees to share the biggest challenge they face with Parkinson's — and describe how they deal with it.
The discussion was eye-opening. Though I sometimes feel I know all there is to know about Parkinson's — my father had the disease for a decade before I was diagnosed — I don't! I came away from the meeting with much to chew on.