How I'm Choosing Gratitude in My Life With Parkinson's
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” — Eckhart Tolle
I have a dear friend who is always cheerful and upbeat. What is her secret? Her ritual every morning when she wakes up is to express gratitude for the things in her life. It’s that simple. Apparently she is not alone. When looking for quotes about gratitude, there were many like this one from Oprah Winfrey: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
As the year comes to a close it is often a time of reflection. We look at what we have accomplished in the last year and what we did not get done, in spite of our best efforts. But most of all, it is a time to express gratitude to those who have come into our lives and gratitude for the things we have in our lives. Yes, even if you are living with a progressive disease like Parkinson’s, there are some things you can be grateful for. If you don’t think so, I challenge you to look around and find someone or something that you can be grateful for. And if you can, write it down so that you can look at it again next December. Hopefully, like Oprah, you will have more things to be thankful for.
Here are some of my reflections about the past year and what I am thankful for.
First, I want to express gratitude to my family and friends for always being there for me, supporting me in my endeavors, coming to Parkinson’s events with me and not letting me be a “sick person.” You insist that my life has not changed because of PD and encourage me to be independent. And I thank you for that.
This fall marked 11 years since the start of my Parkinson’s symptoms. My diagnosis was confirmed a year later by my wonderful Movement Disorders Specialist at UCLA. At the time, she told me that because I was tremor dominant, she thought I had a very slowly progressing type of PD. And she was right. My meds have calmed my tremor, and most people are surprised to learn that I have Parkinson’s. For this I am very grateful.
I have been fortunate to be able to take advantage of many learning opportunities for people with Parkinson’s. Five years ago I attended my first Fox Foundation event in Pasadena, CA, which opened doors for me. I learned about boxing for PD that day and started a class a month later in Santa Monica, with what is now called Stop-PD. I have been going to boxing ever since. Unfortunately, in the past five years, there have been many times when I am the only woman in the class. Those women who attended quickly became friends. And the guys have been great. Thank you for all of your support. I love being with all of you. You are an important part of my week.
This year marked the fourth anniversary of a group I started for women with PD in Los Angeles, which is now called Twitchy Women. We are not a traditional support group. We are more activity-based, whether it is exercise, a talk by a psychologist, speech therapist, sex therapist or just exploring our creativity and having fun. The friendships that have been made through this group are wonderful. And in exciting news, several major Parkinson’s organizations like our concept so much that they have asked us to encourage other women to start similar groups in other areas. If you want to start a group where you live, please contact me. I am not only grateful for what this group has given back to me and the other women, but I am looking forward to expanding the concept and reaching a wider audience. Thank you to all of the special women who have come into my life because we share the common bond of Parkinson’s.
In June, I attended the World Parkinson’s Congress for the second time. This time the WPC was in Kyoto, Japan, so Mr. Twitchy and I, along with good friends we travel with every year, took a cruise from S. Korea to Osaka, Japan and then spent three days touring Kyoto prior to the conference. Our trip was wonderful. Our friends went on to Tokyo and we attended the WPC. There I got to meet many other bloggers who I have only known on the internet, as well as quite a few followers of my blog.
I submitted an abstract which was accepted and created a poster for the poster display. That was a lot more work than I expected. I probably won’t do it again, but I am glad I was able to do it. But the most exciting part of the WPC for me was that Roni Todaro, VP at the Parkinson’s Foundation, was asked to give an early morning talk about the study she had asked me to co-chair, titled Women and PD Talk. Not only did Roni mention me, but highlighted me in her powerpoint presentation. Roni, I can’t thank you enough for the amazing shout-out!
Because of the new relationships with other bloggers that were nurtured at the WPC, I have had the opportunity to participate in several podcasts, conferences, webinars and more. It seems the more involved you get in the PD community, the more it opens your world up. We are a small but mighty international group of people with Parkinson’s. We support each other, problem-solve together, and reach out to others who are new to our community to ease their path on this journey with Parkinson’s. We are living proof that no one needs to go through this alone. And for that, I am extremely grateful.
It has been a busy year, with many gratifying experiences for me. This is not the future I could have imagined 10 years ago, when I feared getting a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease meant losing the ability to live a “normal” life very quickly. With all of the latest developments in research, people are living better and living longer with PD. Maybe this will be the year the cure is finally found. I remain grateful and hopeful.
“This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” — Maya Angelou
Getty image by Ridofranz.