One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked…

You may be aware of these famous people who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – boxer Muhammad Ali, actor Michael J. Fox and comedian Robin Williams.

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My dad has Parkinson’s disease.

mayoclinic.org has this definition –

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. But while a tremor may be the most well-known sign of Parkinson’s disease, the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

webmd.com lists these common symptoms –

Stiff muscles (rigidity) and aching muscles. One of the most common early signs of Parkinson’s is a reduced arm swing on one side when you walk. This is caused by rigid muscles. Rigidity can also affect the muscles of the legs, face, neck, or other parts of the body. It may cause muscles to feel tired and achy.

Slow, limited movement, especially when you try to move from a resting position. For instance, it may be hard to get out of a chair or turn over in bed.

Weakness of face and throat muscles. It may get harder to talk and swallow. You may choke, cough, or drool. Speech becomes softer and monotonous. Loss of movement in the muscles in the face can cause a fixed, vacant facial expression, often called the “Parkinson’s mask.”

Difficulty with walking and balance. A person with this disease is likely to take small steps and shuffle with his or her feet close together, bend forward slightly at the waist, and have trouble turning around. Balance and posture problems may cause frequent falls. But these problems usually don’t happen until later on.

Freezing, a sudden, brief inability to move. It most often affects walking.

My dad has Parkinson’s disease – it  has progressed fairly quickly in the last couple of years and he has slowed down quite a bit; he takes small steps and shuffles with his feet together and sometimes walks with a cane.  The most noticeable symptom is the ‘Parkinson’s Mask’; the weakness of face and throat muscles.  My dad’s speech is very soft and monotone and he at times has a fixed vacant expression.  At times it is extremely difficult to understand my dad on the phone.  My siblings and I have discussed this; when on the phone with him we sometimes do not know how to respond.  At times we have no idea as to what our dad is saying; is he asking a question and we need to answer?  How do we answer when we do not know the question?  How do we respond to our dad when we do not understand him?

I am sad – seeing my dad go through this and knowing it will only become worse.  I am glad – my dad’s wife, my stepmother is there for him; to help him, take care of him and to love him.

In the past my dad was vibrant, hardworking and had much going for him.  And though HE may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, HE can never be taken away unless HE surrenders.  My dad still has his dignity and therefore surrender is not an option.

Today I see a man who is slowing in movement with muscles becoming rigid and stiff and a body that is weary; but his dignity will carry him through.

images2I see possibilities in everything. For everything that’s taken away, something of greater value has been given. – Michael J. Fox

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