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It’s World Parkinson’s Day

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

I am 53 years old and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 23. I have made it my mission to provide Parkinson’s awareness through my 12 year old award winning blog, www.asoftvoice.com by sharing lessons and information related to this illness.

Thirty plus years with Parkinson’s has taught me a great deal about living well with this chronic condition.

 Here are 10 things I want to share with you about Parkinson’s disease:

  1. No two people with Parkinson’s are identical. Every patient is unique and may require a personalized treatment plan.
  2. Often, the first symptoms of Parkinson’s can be a loss of sense of smell, constipation, or wrist or shoulder discomfort.
  3. Tremor, mobility issues, and facial masking are probably the symptoms that are most identified with Parkinson’s. It is believed that symptoms may begin 10 or more years before visible symptoms might be recognized.
  4. Some people with Parkinson’s disease may show no external symptoms but can have difficulty with memory and other cognitive issues, digestion, pain, eye problems, or depression.
  5. A positive perspective, a good attitude, staying flexible, and a sense of humor can help to deal with stress and anxiety.
  6. Embracing exercise (Rock Steady Boxing), speech therapy (SPEAK OUT!), yoga, reflexology, reiki, meditation, massage, can help to reduce anxiety and stress to calm both mind and body. Don’t stop looking for a combination of therapies that work best for you!
  7. Parkinson’s disease is not an old person’s disease. I have had Parkinson’s for several years prior to my diagnosis and that was over 30 years ago.
  8. Dyskinesia (rapid, uncontrolled movement) is not due to Parkinson’s disease itself, but it is a side-effect of the medications.
  9. Protein can reduce the efficacy of some Parkinson’s medications. Consult your doctor for more information.
  10. Find a neurologist who is a Movement Disorder Specialist (MDS). They have specialized training in Parkinson’s disease.

I’ve found that by staying active and taking a proactive approach to my Parkinson’s, I’ve been able to live well, pursue my writing career and published two books, lecture, travel extensively, and continue my passion for photography. A diagnosis of Parkinson’s has not been the end for me but given me a new purpose and a new direction for my life.

What Every Person with Parkinson’s Needs to Know About Air Travel

Plane Travel!

Don’t be alarmed– but be aware, my fellow Parkinson’s disease travelers!

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about along our journey, it was released recently, that the Transportation & Security Administration (TSA) has a program called “Quiet Skies” that is noting behavior, looking for excessive fidgeting, perspiration, and cold stares by passengers. Supposedly, fifty passengers a day are identified.

We are being tracked and monitored both on the ground and in the air. Our habits, reading material, and reactions are noted and logged, if we bring any kind of attention to ourselves. The knowledge that anything out of the ordinary needs investigation is understandable, but when you are faced with a neurological disorder that can alter your walking, uncontrollable movement and body temperature regulation (both hot and cold), tremor, or balance issues- these physiological reactions are possibly red flags that could bring focus on those of us living with an illness.

Maybe, just maybe, through education and identifying ourselves as people with Parkinson’s and educating TSA agents about facial masking, dyskinesia, bradykinesia, as well as the numerous subtleties that can come with Parkinson’s, might be just what the doctor ordered. Instead of making the TSA wonder what we are going through, we need to create a teachable moment that might just lead to real changes.

People suspect and often fear what they don’t know about. Unless you live with Parkinson’s disease daily and are aware of the wide variety of symptoms and unpredictability of this illness, only through education and extra training will those unfamiliar with neurological disorders come to be educated.

Some Parkinson’s events and sites to make you aware of this #ParkinsonsAwarenessMonth 2018

This, as is every April, is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month—it is a time to learn about an illness that touches millions of lives across the globe. Help spread the word to anyone you know who may have a need for assistance in getting more of an education on the complexities of Parkinson’s disease.

This #ParkinsonsAwarenessMonth there are so many events going on online and locally.  Here are a few of the many Parkinson’s disease related events that I want to point out –there are far too many to mention (check your local community for special events close to you), along with some online resources that I encourage you to visit.

April is Parkinson's Awareness Month

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

April 14, 2018 12pm -5pm
Pints for Parkinson’s – Hosted by Rock Steady NOVA
Tysons Biergarten – Tyson’s Corner, VA
Come out and meet others in the Parkinson’s community along with getting information about Parkinson’s resources in the area.  A portion of the proceeds will go to Parkinson’s non-profit charities.

April 14, 2018- 10am CT
Parkinson Voice Project – Parkinson’s Awareness Month Celebration

Streamed live this Saturday 4/14 at 10:00am (CT) home page and Facebook page
Speaker: Stanley Fahn, MD – Founder of the World Parkinson Coalition
Special performance by: The Intentional Singers

April 16, 2018 11am-1pm
Cafe Alexandria – Parkinson Social Network
The Parkinson Social Network launches their Cafe in Alexandria, Virginia!
Visit https://parkinsonsocialnetwork.org/ for more details and directions.

April 28, 2018
Parkinson’s Unity Walk – Central Park, New York City
24th annual gathering in Central Park to bring awareness to Parkinson’s Disease.

Online Resources 

At ParkinsonsDisease.net, there are 17 Parkinson’s Disease community advocates who share their voices from all parts of the Parkinson’s Disease community. To find the community voice that resonates for you, use this link:  https://parkinsonsdisease.net/community-advocates/

The following are articles that were written for 2 websites that I hope that if you don’t know about that you might now take some time to visit. They are good sources for those dealing with Parkinson’s disease! Education, knowledge, and awareness is so important.

Karl Robb Found a New Purpose Through Parkinson’s – Davis Phinney Foundation

Courtship with a chronic condition: How “20 Questions” led to a 20+ year relationship – PatientsLikeMe

Dyskinesia Isn’t A Dance and It Really Isn’t Funny!

Dyskinesia is the uncontrollable jerky movement of hands, feet, or head. Often misunderstood, dyskinesia is a side effect of the Parkinson’s disease medication. Sometimes, this side effect is embarrassing, annoying, and at times even dangerous. Besides drawing attention to you from complete body writhing, dyskinesia can be exhausting. When I experienced 1 to 2 hour episodes of dyskinesia, I would feel like I ran a marathon without ever leaving home. Small spaces, sharp edges, and anything glass or breakable was a potential hazard. Trying to hold a drink with dyskinesia is a struggle, as your hand wants to splatter everything in sight but your mind screams, “Don’t do it!”

Tremor and dyskinesia are different. Unlike tremor, dyskinesia is bigger than a rapid twitch or tremble. At times, my entire body wiggled and flailed. It still happens, but only on an infrequent basis. Dyskinesia interferes with delicate and precise movements as well as simple everyday tasks, like making a sandwich, pouring a drink, or slicing bread. Someone with dyskinesia may struggle to brush their teeth, comb their hair, or just perform normal acts of daily living. Constant care and awareness is heightened to avoid food from flying everywhere.

BellPeople who don’t know me that well, who may see a brief shake, may laughingly call it a “dance”. Calling dyskinesia a dance may be meant to lighten the severity and discomfort of the event for all involved. Dancing is by choice—dyskinesia is not. I tolerate this comment but admittedly wish that those calling dyskinesia a dance could refrain from reducing a drug interaction that affects so many, to a recreational act. Dyskinesia in public is a teachable moment! Explaining to the uninitiated that this isn’t part of the illness of Parkinson’s has been a constant challenge.

Understanding dyskinesia from the non-scientific perspective isn’t that complicated, but trying to negotiate it, reduce it, and calm it, is the hard part. Never knowing when or where it might crop up can keep you on edge. It adds more stress—not what you need! Over time, I have gotten better about finding some control with the help of meditation, yoga, breathing, and reiki.

I realize that the distinction between tremor and dyskinesia probably in the scheme of things isn’t all that crucial, but what is important is the way either symptom is accepted by the public. Educating the public and demystifying the nuances of Parkinson’s can bridge the gap and clarify just what the public should understand about symptoms and side effects related to Parkinson’s disease.

A Friend’s Inspirational Story

Weathered Bell

Weathered Bell

Parkinson’s disease has given me many gifts, lessons, and opportunities. I am forever thankful for the amazing people that I have met and developed friendships with over the past 20+ years. There are far too many of you for me to thank and acknowledge at this time, but I would like to point out an important person who works quietly for change in the Parkinson’s community and expects no praise for her tireless commitment.

Linda Swanson, of McKinney, Texas, is a force that I encountered 5 years ago. Her infectious spirit and ebullient energy is something she brings wherever she goes, and oh, she just happens to have Parkinson’s disease. A marathoner, a half marathoner, a constant volunteer, Linda is always raising awareness about Parkinson’s disease.  Linda and her husband, Mike, are tireless advocates and volunteers for Parkinson’s charities. Please take a moment to learn about Linda’s story in the video, Changing the Face of Parkinson’s, which was submitted to 2015 Neuro Film Festival. Please support Linda by viewing and voting for her video titled Changing the Face of Parkinson’s (registration is required to vote).

The Swansons are two people, who along with many of you fill me up with hope and inspiration!

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