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You are not your disease

Wednesday December 01, 2010

Dr Jill Marjama-lyons, M.D.

University of Florida - I so often hear patients take ownership of their Parkinson’s disease by saying, ”My Parkinson’s disease is acting up or bothering me. “ How often I have heard doctors and nurses refer to Parkinson’s people as “Parkies.”

I have caught myself saying “How’s your Parkinson’s doing” rather than saying “How are you”. Only since working with and treating Navoja people with Parkinson’s disease, however, have I come to more fully understand the power of words.

In Navajo culture, they believe that words are reality, so when I tell a Navajo patient that he or she has Parkinson’s disease, the words I say are partly responsible of giving the patient Parkinson’s disease.

This is an important message. We all have to be careful as doctors, nurses, practitioners, and patients not to define or label others or ourselves by a disease. If we do this, then the disease and the symptoms become our focus. We are risk losing the real focus of what we are.

So read, find out more about the condition but do not make the mistake of thinking that you are your disease. Your object is to learn about the condition and find those therapies and help behaviours that work best for you so that you can focus on who you are rather than on the disease.

I am not saying that you do not have Parkinson’s disease, and that it doesn’t warrant treatment and adaptation in your life. Rather, you if lead a well balanced, healthy life by attending to all your needs – physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual – and strengthening your connection to others, nature, and the Divine, you can achieve optimal wellness and go beyond your disease.

You can focus on living well in spite of your illness. You can learn how to cope with and rise above and beyond it rather than be consumed by it.