Journey with Parkinson’s: During an Intermission

“Hope is a function of struggle.” Brené Brown

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.” Brené Brown

Why do we learn?
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Introduction to the Intermission:  According to the Facebook ‘’ page, readers have been searching for something new to read because it’s been over 60 days since my last blog post.  And I’ve received several emails asking if everything was okay with my health due to the almost 2-month gap since my last post.  I miss reading and planning and writing the next blog post; however, career trumps blogging. Let me explain.

My reality is from early August-to-early November, I’m very much just a School of Medicine AND University teaching professor, and I barely have time to breathe.  Maybe it’s the Parkinson’s holding me back some, or it’s my commitment to take it all in and accomplish too much, or it’s perhaps the perfectionist-drive I possess to strive for the very best of everything.  Or likely, it’s a combination of all three of these aspects contribute to work and not blogging. In reality, it’s more than just a job, educating future healthcare givers is such a reward; teaching these students feels more like a calling.

“’Crazy-busy’ is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.” Brené Brown

During the Intermission, I’ve Been Teaching: I have a dear golf-buddy friend who frequently tells me about my career by sarcastically saying “Oh Frank, you know that University professors only have to work 9 hrs/week!”  I just simply smile in response.  Unfortunately, most of my academic career has been centered on working 9-10 hrs/day (in fact, 9 hrs/week actually seems more like ‘vacation-mode’).  I have another dear friend in Europe. At dinner one night in England, I said “In the prime of my research career I was working 10-11 hrs/day for 6 days/week (that always seemed the norm in academic medicine, not the exception). His remark was “If you were working like that in England, we’d say you’re a bit crazy.” So be it, that’s just what I’ve been doing work-wise since the early 1980’s.  In 2018, at 65-years-of-age, I’ve definitely decreased the pace slightly due to Parkinson’s but that’s going to be the topic of another future blog post.

My fall teaching span several courses in the School of Medicine (SOM) and one course in Arts & Sciences.  In the SOM, I’m the co-Block Director of Immunology and co-Block Director of Hematology, which demands a considerable amount of time both lecturing and dealing with administrative tasks for 190 1st-year medical students.  Furthermore, we’ve got a tremendous supporting medical education staff, I’ve got great colleagues-friends as my co-Block leaders, and the students, well, they’re uniformly terrific.  However, the pace and intensity of each day just drain every remaining second of your life away.  Each block I co-direct lasts for 4 weeks. Separately, I help teach some small group sessions in the lead-off medical school course called “Principles of Medicine.”  Likewise, I also help instruct in the Histology small group sessions that percolate throughout the school year.

One of the extra events we’ve created for the first year medical students is jokingly called “flu shot with a buddy.”  In reality, flu vaccine day is a simulation where the students learn how to give a shot.  Then they actually practice giving the flu vaccination to one another.  And since they’re required to receive the flu shot, it’s a win-win scenario.  And since I also need to get the vaccination against the flu, I recruit the first person who volunteers, or who wants to give me the shot (Click here to watch a short video of me getting the flu shot).

Over in the University-side in the afternoon, I teach the course I created in 1996, the “Biology of Blood Diseases.”  The fall-version is an Honors section of 25 students (mostly seniors and focused in matriculating in the arena of health care in some field).  These students are incredibly bright, dedicated to service in the health field setting, and very enjoyable to teach. Unlike the SOM, there is no administrative support, I do it alone and with the help of former students as TA’s. Since its start, this course has evolved tremendously, mainly since I’ve grown as an educator and the material of blood and its diseases is just so very interesting (and fun to teach). As my SOM Hematology block comes to an end, I’ll have more time to spend/interact with this undergraduate class.

Sharing my dealing/living with Parkinson’s with both the undergraduates and medical students has been very important, and provides links with the students I would have never envisioned.  Collectively, this is what I live for now; the opportunity to teach and help train these bright minds and talented individuals.

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” Omar Khayyam

After the Intermission, Here are Some Future Blog Topics:  I haven’t totally ignored reading-thinking-planning-writing future blog post. Here are titles of some incomplete blog stories/ideas that are listed below (please stay-tuned):

•Brief Report: Whey Protein Isolate Helps Synthesize Neuronal Glutathione
•Sexual Health in the Presence of Parkinson’s
•The Measure of a Day With Parkinson’s
•Living With Parkinson’s: Life Is Why
•Gout and the Risk of Parkinson’s
•Immune System and Parkinson’s (Part 2): Role of the Innate Immune System
•A Diagnosis of Parkinson’s: You’re Still in Control of the Rest of Your Life
•Exercise and Neuroprotection in Parkinson’s Disease: “The Long and Winding Road”
•A Comparison of Parkinson’s to Huntington’s Disease
•A Comparison of Parkinson’s to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
•Shining a Light on Alzheimer’s: Could Gamma-wave Therapy Also Treat Parkinson’s?
•Sleepless in Parkinson’s
•Landmark Study Links Gut Microbes to the Development of Parkinson’s: “Braaking”-it own from Gut-to-Brain
•Anatomy of Parkinson’s: Basal Ganglia

Balancing Life, Career, and Parkinson’s: I seem to live my life as if I’m a rheostat, in that I’m either entirely on or entirely off.  The balance in between seems hard to find at times; yet, that’s just part of the life/lifestyle I’ve led.  Is it healthy?  No, of course not.  And I’m slowly growing into the notion of making more positive changes to better accommodate the nuisance known as Parkinson’s.  The blog posts return again in early November (2018).  See you real soon.

“Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down the extraordinary moments. Other times we’re so afraid of the dark we don’t dare let ourselves enjoy the light. A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy. That would eventually become unbearable. I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude and inspiration.” Brené Brown

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