Living Well With Parkinson’s

“Live well, learn plenty, laugh often, love much.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche

**Introduction: Recently, I wrote a blog post entitled “A Checklist for Supporting Someone with Parkinson’s” (to read it click here). Briefly, I had been meeting people who had friends with Parkinson’s; however, these Parkinson’s-friends were home bound, sedentary and living-without-hope. I started thinking about creating a simple checklist for the friends to use to try and re-engage their friends with Parkinson’s. This blog post generated several thoughtful replies including, “I have a very dear friend who has PD and is trending more toward the hopeless/frustrated line that you described, so I felt this article to be personally helpful and enriching!”

“Concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Gautama Buddha

**Dedication of this blog post to the UNC School of Medicine Class of 2023 is at the end.

Pathways through Parkinson’s: Several others suggested I write a self-help blog for those of us with Parkinson’s. Over the past several years, I have written blog posts focused on better health in the presence of Parkinson’s. In these posts, I provided tips and described character traits to better manage life with Parkinson’s. Occasionally, I re-read these posts to bolster my journey with Parkinson’s. These life-focused blog posts are like beacons, mounted in the evening sky, helping me choose the best life-path to follow with my unwanted companion named Parkinson’s. 

Collectively, I call these self-help/advice-based blog posts “Pathways through Parkinson’s:”
The Uncertainty of Parkinson’s;
2019 Parkinson’s Awareness Month- 12 Rules of Life With Exercise
Perseverance in Parkinson’s
Brief Report: Contentment, Gratitude, and Mindfulness in the Presence of Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s Life Strengths
Always, With Parkinson’s
Tenacity and Parkinson’s
A Good Life With Parkinson’s
7 Tips and Healthy Habits for Working with Parkinson’s
10 “P-Words” That Will Help Your Career Even in the Presence of Parkinson’s
9 Things to Know About Exercise-induced Neuroplasticity in Human Parkinson’s
9 Life Lessons from 2016 Commencement Speeches
7 Healthy Habits For Your Brain
Believe in Life in the Presence of Parkinson’s
Hope in the Presence of Parkinson’s
11 Tips And Character Traits For Living Better With Parkinson’s
6 Personal Strengths for Living Decisively with Parkinson’s
Happiness and Parkinson’s: 10 Simple Suggestions to Make Your Life Happier
Words Worth Living
Personal Strengths of Character
Hope Resides Within the Adversity of Parkinson’s
Persistence and Parkinson’s

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Joseph Addison

A Google search provides very sound advice citing several ancient philosophers, writers, and famous physicians: I have always enjoyed linking a given topic with a quote. Below are some quotes from a historic standpoint regarding health and wellness linked to nutrition, exercise, and other relevant topics:

  • “It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”Socrates
  • “Look to the nervous system as the key to maximum health.” Galen
  • “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” Hippocrates
  • “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being.” Plato
  • “It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor.” Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • “When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot become manifest, strength cannot be exerted, wealth is useless, and reason is powerless.” Herophilos
  • “Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food.” Hippocrates
  • “Only by understanding the wisdom of natural foods and their effects on the body, shall we attain mastery of disease and pain, which shall enable us to relieve the burden of mankind.” William Harvey
  • “Patients should have rest, food, fresh air, and exercise – the quadrangle of health.” William Osler

A life well-lived: How we define the meaning behind a life well-lived is such an individual thing. Here are a few of my thoughts, especially with Parkinson’s:

  • Every morning, we wake to renew our life, and it gives us another chance to get it right one more time. 
  • How we handle and process pain and hurt, as much as how we give and take love, provides the essential fulcrum to life’s happiness. 
  • The attention we will contribute to the current moment leads to the matter of how well we learn and re-learn over our life-time, the collective life-education. 
  • Life takes courage and effort, and you usually earn what you achieve; keep trying and embrace the goals as you pass the finish line, not before.
  • Be grateful for what you have, not bitter for what is missing; use gratitude for those who helped you along your journey because you were not alone.
  • There will be moments-hours-(hopefully not)-days of pain and hurt; it’s okay, focus on the healing process today, and you can try again tomorrow.
  • How we deal, or how we don’t deal with a disorder like Parkinson’s defines our fate of managing difficult and challenging moments of life. 
  • It is not deciding whether it’s fair or not that we’ve got Parkinson’s; clearly, it’s not. 
  • It seems to me to be more of how well we adapt, how well we cope with the mystery that accompanies each individual who has Parkinson’s. 
  • We need to embrace the attitude of never giving up, never giving in, never yielding to the slowly evolving menace named Parkinson’s.
  • This challenge of living under the influence of Parkinson’s unites us together.

“The really important thing is not to live, but to live well. And to live well meant, along with more enjoyable things in life, to live according to your principles.” Socrates

A Parkinson’s-specific daily life checklist:  Here are ten short phrases to help you focus, and to enable you to process life. These tips will allow you when you wake up this morning, to say okay, let’s be active and live life to the fullest in the presence of Parkinson’s:

  1. Go outside and start walking. If you feel yourself becoming more sedentary, get up and get out; go for a short walk today, a little further tomorrow, and so forth.
  2. Check-in with your Neurologist. Your Neurologist knows you and your disorder; their purpose is to help you live a more meaningful life. Thus, that six-month check-up is vital to you, and maintaining your life-force in balance.
  3. Medication clockwork. I have found that whatever I do each day depends on how closely I monitor when I take my pills — being on time matters.
  4. Sleep is always a good thing. Sleep is good for what ails us, end of the story. There are aspects of insomnia linked to the disorder and treatment.
  5. Food for the brain and the body. Eat a balanced, thoughtful diet, reward your brain and your body, and the response from your brain/body will be noticed.
  6. (Strenuous) Exercise is the key ingredient. The more active you are, and the more you make time for training, the better you’ll be in the long-run. Exercise will truly improve your quality-of-life in the presence of Parkinson’s.
  7. Take good care of your care partner/coach. If someone is helping you, please make sure they receive their own time to live and renew. Their happiness is directly linked to your happiness.
  8. Stay hopeful, persistent, and positive. Yes. Yes. Yes.
  9. Join a support group. Talking with others with Parkinson’s, being with others with the disorder may help educate you to understand you better.
  10. Socializing matters. Don’t become an island, isolated away from everyone and everything. Socializing provides a link to being with others and being happy.

Here is a 1-page handout with the ten suggestions and some accompanying quotes to help you live better with Parkinson’s (click here to download and print).  I know that I don’t have all the answers because if I did, I would only need to have written a single-blog with tips and advice on how to live well in the presence of Parkinson’s. If some of these suggestions help you, I’m happy for you. I will use my latest handout to help me manage life with Parkinson’s. Have a great start to the next day of the rest of your life.

**Dedication: I dedicate this blog post to the University of North Carolina School of Medicine Class of 2023. I have been teaching the first-year class of medical students for several months (starting a little in Principles of Medicine and continuing full-force in both Immunology and Hematology). I have admired your dedication to the educational goals, and I’ve gained renewed energy from teaching you. Thank you, I am both amazed and stunned by the gift given to Parkinson Wellness Recovery (PWR!) on my behalf. My current retirement plan, hopefully, has me seeing all of you graduate. As the Hematology Block approaches the finish line, I do look forward to catching up on some lost hours of sleep. Thanks for everything, it’s been a real honor teaching you all the past few months. You have contributed to my well-lived life!

“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” Mary Anne Radmacher

Cover photo credit:https://www.randmcnally.com/blog/post/a-guide-to-the-great-smoky-mountains-americas-countryside

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