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Homespun Lifestyles Living with Parkinson’s disease

Thursday October 19, 2006

DENIECE SCHWAB

(Sidney Herald) - Patti Schwenke, Sidney, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease October of 2001, but showed symptoms four years prior.

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system. The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord. Parkinson’s disease is one of the conditions known as a movement disorder. When the parts of the body do not receive messages from the brain telling them when and where to move, range of motion becomes difficult.

"I felt the small tremor in my hand," Schwenke said. "It started to shake a bit, and then it progressed enough, making it hard for me to write." Schwenke tried to hide her hand when the tremors were noticeable. She would tuck it in a pocket or sit on the hand. Hiding the hand didn’t work. "Pretty soon my shoulder would start to shake," she said. It was time for a trip to her physician in Billings to find out the cause. Schwenke’s mother had recently passed away, and stress was high in her life. Nervousness, anxiety and stress are possible contributing factors of Parkinson’s disease. When she is nervous, anxious or stressed, Schwenke shows the signs of Parkinson’s.

Lots of things have changed in her life. "My movement - my gait is sometimes quite slow and off balance," Schwenke said. "It just takes me a long time to get it done, and I don’t have the strength."

Her body has become very stiff at times, but medication helps to keep Schwenke limber. She regained the use of her right hand, making it possible to write and do her daily routine.

Another way she keeps limber is with a craft. Beadwork and jewelry making are used, not only as a craft, but also for therapy. "It keeps my fingers and brain working together," Schwenke said. "I feel the more beads I drop, the more patient I become. It’s a lesson of patience and tolerance when I’m shaking so bad." When Schwenke’s daughter Angela started doing beadwork, Schwenke hadn’t really thought that was something she wanted to try, but she gave it a shot and found the beadwork was better therapy than anything else. "I made a bracelet and thought, ’This is really enjoyable.’ You can really see the work. You’re making progress."

The beadwork for Schwenke was nostalgic in itself. She had antique seed beads that belonged to her aunt. "Beadwork is a unique craft," Schwenke said. "Every piece is different."

Many people are silent when they find out they’ve been struck by Parkinson’s, but Schwenke says, "I talk about it because it’s there."

This disease hasn’t kept her from living life. She travels to California to be with family, as well as caring for her family, friends, and, of course, the family animals at home.