Prisoner of circumstance or practitioner of hope
Submitted by: bbell 6/23/2010 4:35:43 PM
Yes, there is life after Parkinson’s, lots of it!
My journey with Parkinson’s was confirmed seven years ago. I had struggled with hand tremors, loss of balance, drooling out of one side of my mouth and general confusion with what had happened with what had up to that point been a very health body. No one in the medical model seemed to be able to pin point my problem. Then I had the wonderful fortune to locate Dr. Anthony Santiago a neurologist here in Spokane.
Dr. Santiago was amazing; he took lots of time and carefully examined me, did extensive interviews and gave me the diagnosis of Parkinson’s. This was not happy news and I found myself envisioning the worst-case scenarios. At that moment my life seemed to spin out of control. An otherwise very optimistic and positive person I found myself feeling very gloomy and with a loss of hope. The future did not look bright.
I became aware that I could become a prisoner of circumstances or a practitioner of hope.
I could feel sorry for myself and helpless to do anything about my problems, or I could believe there was a realistic chance for something better. Knowing thi,s I soon realized I must consciously decide how to deal with this new dilemma.
What kind of person would I become now, what kind of personality and attitude would I bring in to all my relationships. How alive would I be?
In my lifetime I have been aware of others that when confronted with life altering illnesses like Parkinson’s allow their life to wither and their spirits to be shattered. Leaving them stuck and stagnated, making for a long sad journey in the years ahead for them and their loved ones.
I thought of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and realized they offered a perfect framework for facing this new challenge. His First Habit is to Be Proactive. Knowing that change starts from within, and highly effective people make the decision to improve their lives through the things that they can influence rather than by simply reacting to external forces. I began to envision a plan of action. Knowing if I was proactive, I didn’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create a plan of action for me. I could create my own plan.
His second habit, says begin with the end in mind. I already had an idea of what I wanted to be as I aged. My goal was to be fully alive at 105. So I began to strategize how I could continue on that path to creative aging realizing I had Parkinson’s but it didn’t have me. I had always had the mind set of living life to the fullest but my current condition sharpened that focus and I became very intentionally about ways to make it happen.
Covey’s third step was the natural launching pad which says, Put First Things First. I wanted to be intentional about being sure to spend time doing those things that would lead me toward my goal of creative aging. I realized the importance of creating a balanced approach to my life. Making sure to include close attention to my medication, regular exercise, sound diet, maintaining relationships, staying involved with actives with others, and always making room for the spiritual dimension. Making sure to not let any of these areas crowd my daily living. I knew there were not going to be any short cuts.
Good fortune came my way when son and daughter and their spouses said we want to sponsor you at a fitness club of your choice. So I discovered a great program at the local YMCA called Active Older Adult Aerobics. It has been great both for the exercise but also a good social connection. What a special gift from my children.
I continued to monitor my eating habits, and am excited to fix tasty nutritious meals. I am confident that nutrition plays a key role in my current condition. But for me the discovery that Healthy Aging and Living Life to the Fullest was much more than exercise, medication, and eating well. I realized the importance of having a sense of purpose and being able to serve others. To make this a reality I began reaching out: doing meals on Wheels, taking elderly folks shopping, to medical appointments and doing Crowd Management for Starplex a local crowd management service.
But a really important gift came when I answered an ad in the church bulletin that was seeking help for the local L’Arche Spokane Community last May. L'Arche Spokane is a community of two homes where core members (adults with developmental disabilities) live together with assistants, and full-time live-in care providers.
Since last May I have experienced the gift of being an assistant in one of the two homes in the Spokane L’Arche Community. It has been an amazing experience for me to have this opportunity to share a part of my life in this very caring, enriching community. I receive from them far more than I give. That is why the L’Arche movement is convinced that our societies can truly benefit from the qualities that those with intellectual disability possess and have the potential to be our teachers.
My passion for the L’Arche Spokane Community has led me to plan a 200 Mile Bike ride this August. This ride will be a fitness challenge, as well as an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the nonprofits L’Arche Community. I am training for this ride and have ridden 635 mils to date.
A key ingredient in all of this has been hope.
I believe strongly that it is a vital ingredient in my life. Without it, I have observed far too many people come to the conclusion that they are powerless in the face of difficulties. "It can't be helped," is their motto. Without hope, they won't make needed changes. They feel powerless. Without hope, they will grimly accept the unacceptable and believe that things are about as good as they will ever get. I use the word HOPE as an acronym with each letter having the following meaning: H- I say I am happy, O I say I am optimistic, P I say I am Patient, and E I say I am enthusiastic,
For me every victory does count! Even though I suffered the loss of Dr Santiago when Deaconess Hospital went for profit they cut his practice. This was sad because he didn’t fit the model of running patients through quickly but took time to really get to know and support each of us. But again I had the good fortune of getting transferred to the Booth Gardner Parkinson’s Clinic and the excellent care of Dr. Monique Giroux.
Life continues to unfold in a positive manner. I am blessed!
Inspiration from Jim O