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Staying True to Your Passions as You Fight Parkinson's Disease

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The first time I met a client with Parkinson’s, I was very uneducated about the illness. Parkinson’s is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movements and causes nerve cell damage in the brain.

The nerve cell damage causes dopamine levels to drop, which is how Parkinson’s develops. Many individuals with Parkinson’s have to interrupt all aspects of their life to adjust to living with their disease.

One man I know used to be a pilot, but after getting diagnosed, he gave up flying. After weeks of discouragement and after selling his personal helicopter, he was depressed and down. One day, his wife suggested he continue flying, but this time, he was given a computer flight simulation program.

This man, who really struggles with his diagnosis, was able to find hope again. And a few years after his diagnosis and after daily practice on the computer, his daughter had a very big surprise for him. She had bought him a flight, with her and a friend, but after meeting the pilot, the pilot stated that she would not be flying, that the man with Parkinson’s would be. He stood there, overwhelmed with excitement, and eventually had help getting into the helicopter, successfully flying. After landing, he exclaimed, “I didn’t know I could still do it… but I wanted to more than anything.”

Another individual, in her 90s, used to compete in Scrabble tournaments and used to play poker at casinos but after losing control in her hands, she had to get creative on fighting back against her disease. When having a caregiver or family member present, she was able to play Scrabble, by directing someone on where to place her letters. She is not only able to play, but also frequently wins. Even if their bodies are struggling to work together, people with Parkinson’s still have fully functioning brains and aspirations.

My advice to anyone diagnosed is to find the good with the bad. Do not quit your hobbies, find a way to continue them in a new and unique way. Start the day off with being grateful and continue looking for ways to have a great quality of life, despite all the challenges associated with Parkinson’s.

Getty image by courtneyk.

Originally published: January 28, 2022
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