Perseverance in Parkinson’s

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.” Victor Hugo

“Never, never, never give in!” Winston S. Churchill

Perseverance Defined: <per·se·ver·ance /ˌpərsəˈvirəns/ noun> I really like the description given by, Perseverance is not giving up. It is persistence and tenacity, the effort required to do something and keep doing it till the end, even if it’s hard.

With that definition in mind, here are examples of perseverance in the absence and presence of Parkinson’s; and a story about 98 steps. And yes, a bunch of quotes about perseverance.

“Sometimes, carrying on, just carrying on, is the superhuman achievement.” Albert Camus

What Perseverance says to me in the Presence of Parkinson’s:
Perseverance is more than just a word.
It is more than a feeling.
It is a response to a life experience.
It is an attitude you take when you won’t give up.
Perseverance enables you to live your life forward.
It functions by strengthening your inner self.
It will focus you when the odds are against you.
It allows you to have a better quality-of-life.

“I’ve always made a total effort, even when the odds seemed entirely against me. I never quit trying; I never felt that I didn’t have a chance to win.” Arnold Palmer

Perseverance and the Perfect Photograph: The Kingfisher is a bird that dives into water. Alan McFadyen is a wildlife photographer; he was in search of the perfect photograph of a Kingfisher diving into the water. McFadyen took more than 700,000 photographs over a time period of more than 6 years before he got the perfect picture. He explained it this way, “The photo I was going for of the perfect dive, flawlessly straight, with no splash required not only me to be in the right place and get a fortunate shot but also for the bird itself to get it perfect.” For more photographs and further comments from McFadyen on this feat of perseverance, click here.

“So long as there is breath in me, that long I will persist. For now I know one of the greatest principles on success; if I persist long enough I will win.” Og Mandino

Perseverance, Oliver Smithies, and the Knockout Nobel Prize: As a scientist, you live your career asking questions based on a hypothesis. You test your theory by designing/performing/interpreting experiments. Many experiments fail, it’s a part of the trade. You revise the conditions, repeat the trial, and build your story. The biggest challenge to students in your laboratory is dealing with and deciphering why an investigation failed. There are many tools a successful scientist must have including innate intelligence, have lots of ideas, enthusiasm for their field of endeavor, ability to recruit a functional lab group and to have the awareness to take advantage of scientific observations (i.e., experiments). However, the true mettle of a scientist is centered around perseverance.

The usual science choice is Thomas Edison; he changed the world by inventing the light bulb. By his perseverance, Edison learned thousands of ways how not to create a light bulb. However, I want to briefly highlight one of the inventions of Dr. Oliver Smithies (1925-2017), a former colleague of mine in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “Oliver Smithies of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and 2007 Nobel Laureate, is best known for pioneering the techniques required for introducing DNA into cells. His work with gene targeting revolutionized biomedical research and allowed for the creation of knockout and transgenic mice. Smithies’s lab itself created the first models of cystic fibrosis, and his further work has gone on to identify many of the genetic factors involved in atherosclerosis, heart disease, and other disorders (click here).” To watch the full interview with Smithies click here. With the drive of an explorer, he perfected a scientific technique of immense value to science; however, without perseverance, this technology may have not been developed at that remarkable time twenty-five years ago. The 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Oliver Smithies of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Martin Evans of the University of Cardiff, U.K

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Thomas A. Edison

Perseverance and Hiking the Ventana Canyon Trail in Tucson, Arizona: My idea of hiking is somewhat idealistic; it starts with a friendly and smooth trail and the beauty of Mother Nature surrounding you. My ideal hike does not usually include a lot of rocks (small and large) on the dirt trail, stinging obstacles created by the indigenous cactus surrounding the path, the trail traversing a stream with moving water and this time the rocks (small and large) are wet (and slippery), and finally, an elevation change of ~1,000 feet/mile. To you experienced hikers, I have newfound respect. We recently hiked part of the Ventana Canyon Trail in Tucson, Arizona. It was tremendous fun; indeed it was. The sheer beauty of the landscape added to the reason why we wanted to do the hike. The hike certainly challenged our ability to balance as you traversed the rocks (small and large, dry and wet). We crossed the rock-filled stream six times going up, which meant we passed it six more times coming down (pictured below is one of our stream crossings). Perseverance was clearly needed here for the novice hikers, especially navigating crossing the stream twelve times. The rock-filled stream crossing(s) definitely got my adrenaline flowing, which seemed to deplete what dopamine I had available.

Collectedly, my ability to stay balanced was tested over-and-over again. No falls, no sprains, no bruises, and only a few minor scratches to report. The challenge of the conditions (for us at least) required perseverance (thinking back to the definition above, “…not giving up. It is persistence and tenacity, the effort required to do something and keep doing it till the end, even if it’s hard.”). Was it fun? Totally, yes. Would we do it again? Yes, for sure. We would definitely come back to this excellent hiking trail, but the next time we’d have hiking boots and poles.

“No one succeeds without effort… Those who succeed owe their success to perseverance.” Ramana Maharshi

98 Steps and Perseverance with Parkinson’s: A venerable Shakespearean-faculty member at UNC-Chapel Hill once remarked to me that when walking to the main campus from the medical school, I was coming from “Scalpel-Hill.” He also said that the University had built the medical school on the highest part of elevation of the campus. Thus, walking from the lofty towers of the medical school campus (actually, Health Affairs includes the medical, dental, allied, nursing, and public health schools, and I’m sure I left out some) to anywhere else on campus would be a downhill walk. This brings me to the story of 98 steps.

I teach my undergraduate class on the main campus in one of the Biology buildings; yes, it is a downhill walk with 98 steps down. And on many occasions, I’m running late to get from the medical school to the classroom. If you have Parkinson’s, we are usually evaluated for balance and stability by our Neurologists and Physical Therapists. And if you have Parkinson’s, you sometimes have difficulties navigating steps, especially when going down some staircases. First, I’ve been told that my balance is excellent and that I’m not a significant risk for falling (so far). Second, regardless of what they say, going down steps typically requires that I place a hand on the handrail. Especially when I’m running late, walking fast, and typically, I have my hands full, and I’m usually carrying my laptop computer in a shoulder bag/briefcase/backpack. But perseverance? Yes, with a capital “P.” Mainly, when you consider, I’m usually running late, and the distance of the walk combined with 98 steps describes something that requires perseverance.

To me, this is a stress-filled scenario; successfully getting from Point A to B will take some perseverance (without falling and hurting yourself). So far, it’s been 25-years of walking from the medical school to the undergraduate-side-of-campus without falling, slipping, or otherwise, hurting myself. Why leave so late? Possibly from some lack of focus/doing too many things at once. 98 steps are accomplished with determination in the presence of Parkinson’s.

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi

Perseverance and Life with Parkinson’s: I spend a lot of time staying hopeful and trying my hardest to resist the grip of Parkinson’s. Therefore, I really believe that the more perseverance you have, the better-stronger-focused-successful person you will be. With an incurable, progressive neurodegenerative disorder like Parkinson’s, your health priority works best by incorporating perseverance into living with this process from minute-by-minute.

Nothing is easy while living with Parkinson’s; however, in the presence of perseverance and the correct attitude, you can best manage and appreciate your own health. Stay balanced, focus on your health and life today. Life with Parkinson’s will be a challenge (got to be honest too), percolate perseverance into your daily plan-of-action to manage your disorder.

We will all have awkward moments ahead; however, your life and those you care the most about are still here today. Keep going. Your perseverance in the presence of Parkinson’s is not giving up. Your perseverance in the presence of Parkinson’s is persistence and tenacity. Your perseverance in the presence of Parkinson’s is the effort required to do something and keep doing it till the end, even if it’s hard.

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Quotes About Perseverance:
“All great achievements require time.” Maya Angelou

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” Confucius

“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” Mary Anne Radmacher

“I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.” Abraham Lincoln

“Never lose hope. Storms make people stronger and never last forever.” Roy T. Bennett

“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” H.G. Wells

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” Babe Ruth

“Hardships make or break people.” Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

“We’re all going to keep fighting, Harry. You know that?” J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

“It’s probably my job to tell you life isn’t fair, but I figure you already know that. So instead, I’ll tell you that hope is precious, and you’re right not to give up.” C.J. Redwine

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.” Tom Hiddleston

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” Vince Lombardi

“By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” Charles Spurgeon

Live the Life of Your Dreams
When you start living the life of
your dreams, there will always be obstacles, doubters, mistakes, and setbacks along the way. But with hard work, perseverance and self-belief there is no limit to what you can achieve.” Roy T. Bennett

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” Stephen Hawking

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