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Carnett: Doing battle daily with Parkinson's

August 12, 2013|By Jim Carnett

I sometimes need to be reminded to be grateful for things I take for granted.

Like walking.

I have a good friend, several years older than I, who’s battling an advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease. An avid walker for many years, he daily employed that exercise in an attempt to stanch Parkinson’s creeping advance.

But over the past six months, he has almost completely lost his ability to walk. His stiff legs freeze. When that occurs, he’s virtually incapable of taking a step.

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It’s maddening.

Parkinson's is a degenerative brain disorder with no known cure. It causes nerve cells to die or become impaired, and patients exhibit such symptoms as tremors or shaking, slowness of movement, rigidity or stiffness, and balance difficulties. Other signs include a shuffling gait, cognitive problems or muffled speech.

My friend was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10 years ago.

I was diagnosed three years later. Does that mean in three years I’ll be where he is today? Predicting the progression of this disease isn’t as simple as that.

Not everyone with Parkinson’s shows evidence of every single symptom of the disease. It’s a grab bag. For example, my father, who died of Parkinson’s after having had the disease for a decade, never exhibited a hand tremor. I have noticeable tremors.

The friend I mentioned has hand tremors similar to mine but seems not to have serious cognitive issues. My father developed significant cognitive problems. Full-blown dementia set in during the final three years of his life.

My symptoms, for now, don’t include freezing. But my friend didn’t begin freezing until recently. Like my friend, I don’t seem to have cognitive issues, but one’s prospects with this disease are as difficult to unravel as a Gordian knot.

I’m learning not to take things for granted. One day at a time is my mantra.

Walking to stave off the affects of Parkinson’s is an important part of my daily routine. It was important to my dad when he battled the disease.

I walk for 80 minutes six mornings a week. One can’t expect to actually “manage” this disease, but I’m convinced that it’s essential to keep your body moving. Parkinson’s endeavors to lock you up in a straight jacket.

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