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I am 72 and I have Parkinson’s Disease

I am 72 and I have Parkinson’s Disease

I was diagnosed with parkinson’s disease in November 2012. I had other health problems in 2012 relating to a chest condition but I was unaware of any neurological problems.

It was a family member, who had some medical knowledge, and whom I had not seen for some time, who advised that I should seek medical advice. Whilst I say that I was unaware of problems, I mean that in a specific sense. On looking back, there were some signs that I associated with growing older. For example, at a wedding service some years earlier, I had felt a strange feeling not unlike dizziness, but rather more like instability. That was so long age that the parties whose wedding it was were divorced by the time of diagnosis. I think it stuck in my mind because it was a feeling that I had never had before. The feeling reappeared from time to time, usually when I was standing in the sandwich queue at Marks & Spencer! Because it occurred at such a specific venue I assumed it was psychosomatic. I suppose I also took little notice of my weakened grip because I was always pretty pathetic when it came to physical strength! 

For years the family joked about my shuffling around the house in my slippers. My granddaughter thought it was because I was wearing slippers that were too big and that a bespoke pair would solve the problem! If only that were the case! I do remember that occasionally I would wonder, as my feet seemed to catch on the pavement, whether I had had some sort of minor stroke affecting my feet. Anyway, I heeded the advice that I had been given and went to my excellent GP. He thought that there was something to investigate and referred me to a neurologist. I am sure that by the time he had walked with me from the waiting room to the own room, he had diagnosed the problem. A few simple, standard tests conducted, he told me I had “early onset, mild” Parkinson’s. Some Co-Benedolpa were prescribed, a subsequent MRI scan arranged, no doubt to rule out anything else, and I was finished.

The consultant offered no advice as to the future and, it is fair to say, I did not ask him. I knew that my daughter, who was with me, would research the topic thoroughly. I did not myself head for the Internet. I took the view that I had a degenerative condition and I did not want to burden myself with learning about the myriad of adverse possibilities. My GP asked me how I felt, having been diagnosed, and I said that I felt like I did when I last saw him before the diagnosis. My daughter said that I told her that I did not feel like the sort of person who gets Parkinson’s. What I meant by that was that Parkinson’s is not one of the more common illnesses, with 1 in 500 people suffering from it (I think). Whereas cancer hits every family. So Parkinson’s happens to other people. What has been my reaction? I surprised myself. As the world’s biggest coward I have always assumed that I would take any such setback very hard. But no! I have found myself not to be depressed or even irritated by my physical shortcomings. Even the steady, insidious progress of the disease does not lower my morale. At least, not so far. I may well come to eat my words in due course.

So how have the last two years treated me? I need to give some background about my personal circumstances. At the time of diagnosis, I was a Solicitor in Sheffield. I have four children, two of whom are adults with their own families. I also have twin boys, now aged 16, who are away at school. I was also in the middle of a divorce. My health was not good anyway because of the chest condition that I have mentioned earlier. I was losing weight rapidly and I was without energy. I retired from my law firm in October 2013 and was too unwell to turn up for the final day. My daughter prevailed upon me to move to Oxford so that care could be in place for me. It was a big move but a sensible one. She immediately had me before a battery of medical consultants and my health improved steadily and reasonably quickly. The weight loss was ascribed to my chest condition, which is now under control (temporarily, at least-I will not tempt fate). My lethargy was probably mainly due to the weight loss, but I am sure Parkinson’s played its part. Lack of sufficiently powerful medication had meant that I ached in my limbs from the effects of Parkinson’s and the ache was a bit like toothache. Some new drug, Ropinorole, has improved that a lot. I was suffering from insomnia but this has now been remedied. Insomnia is a wicked condition. My bladder was playing up, due to the Parkinson’s disease, I was told, but medication has helped. An irregular heartbeat has also been remedied by medication.

So that’s the history of my personal circumstances, although I will shortly bring them up to date. Let’s look at developments. My fine motor skills are reduced and I sense a slight deterioration with the passage of time. In my business life I loved wearing a tie. I have loads of them. Since the day I retired I have not worn one. The prospect of spending time trying to knot it neatly is too unattractive. I also struggle with shirt buttons. The shirtfront is fine but the cuff buttons difficult. Trousers are not so easy to get on and off. Balancing on one leg is a bit precarious and sometimes the trouser gets stuck around the foot. Shaving is not easy. For a while I stopped wet shaving but I found the electric razor did not do an adequate job. I probably was too mean to buy a decent electric razor! I find it difficult to ensure that all areas of the face are properly shaved. This may be down to the quality of the light in the bathroom or the lack of a decent mirror properly positioned. I am noticing that it is no longer easy to rise from a sitting position or to move about comfortably in bed. I am pretty sure that this is a relatively new development. I still drive. My consultant has passed me fit to do so. However, I find myself tense when driving so it is less pleasurable than before, so I do less of it. When out shopping, I often find that old feeling of instability returning, so I do less shopping that before. This unstable feeling is also there if I am at a gathering, such as a party, where people get up close and personal and there is a lot of moving about. So, I am no longer a party animal! So that’s how things have moved over time. Just a slight, but perceptible decline. I propose to use a personal trainer to get me in shape so I will report back about that from time to time.

I said I would return to my personal circumstances. During all this time, my daughter was planning a career change. She says that my illness helped her to set up an online marketing business promoting products that make life easier and brighter as you grow older. The business is known as Spring Chicken. I have become a major sampler of the goods! I have tested adjustable beds, comfy and adjustable chairs, reading lamps, special knives, forks, spoons, plates and cups to aid the infirm. I have special vacuum cleaners, mops and brushes, wristwatches that let her know exactly where I am, and many other helpful devices. I am also Head of the Filing Dept at Spring Chicken. I keep asking for an assistant but my pleas are falling on deaf ears.

One final point: I do not have a noticeable tremor, for which I am grateful. However, when I am typing I often find that I hit a key more than once, thus causing a lot of tidying up. I therefore intend to use dictation software and will report back!

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