Category Archives: Philosophy

10 “P-Words” That Will Help Your Career Even in the Presence of Parkinson’s

“Enjoy the journey, enjoy every moment, and quit worrying about Winning and losing.” Matt Biondi

“Enjoy the journey as much as the destination.”  Marshall Sylver

Introduction:  It has been a month since my last blog post.  Trips to Arizona, California, Alabama, and Florida consumed much of the month.  I spent time with relatives, dear old friends, and played many rounds of golf.  The spring semester was most enjoyable but also it was quite consumptive.  Life-changes.  And I just needed a short break.

10 “P-Words” That Will Help Your Career:  I found a piece of paper recently that had a bunch of hand-written words that started with the letter “P”.  These words were all focused in the mindset of how to achieve/sustain success in the world of medical academics/research in a university setting.  Use these P-words while you advance/survive/navigate/succeed through your career.

At various times during your career, some words may take precedence depending on the situation.  However, if you consider the words in the form of a melody, they will all significantly contribute to the symphony of your work-life.  There is no doubt there are many other words we could cite that help you navigate work, that allow you to succeed in your career.  My list is just a start or an attempt to help you focus your energies with the goal of advancement and happiness in your work world. May this list help you focus and achieve further in your professional career.

  1. Passionate (Capable of, having, or dominated by powerful emotions):
    “There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you.” Richard Branson
  2. Patient (Tolerant; understanding):
    “Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.”  Robert H. Schuller
  3. Perseverance (Continued steady belief or efforts, withstanding discouragement or difficulty):
    “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”  Thomas A. Edison
  4. Persistent (Continuance of an effect after the cause is removed):
    “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” Babe Ruth
  5. Positivity (Characterized by or displaying certainty, acceptance, or affirmation):
    “There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”  W. Clement Stone
  6. Power (The ability or capacity to act or do something effectively):
    “You must try to make the most of all that comes but also don’t forget to learn a lot of all that goes.” William C. Brown
  7. Prepared (To make ready beforehand for a specific purpose):
    “The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.” Elbert Hubbard
  8. Principled(s) (Based on, marked by, or manifesting principle):
    “I wish I had been wiser. I wish I had been more effective, I wish I’d been more unifying, I wish I’d been more principled.” Bill Ayers
  9. Productive (Effective in achieving specified results):
    “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”  Francis of Assisi
  10. Purposeful (Determined; resolute):
    “All life is a purposeful struggle, and your only choice is the choice of a goal.”  Ayn Rand

The 10 “P-Words” Could Assist the Journey (definitions from the Free Dictionary): You may have a different definition for these words and you may know of better quotes given for each word. Good!  The balance, guidance and focus of each word as they are applied to work is what matters.

I remember reading in 1989 “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, and found it useful.  But in hindsight, my mind functions in a simpler more scientific manner, words work better to focus my mind than did chapters and detailed stories.  Covey has sold more than 25 million copies of his book; clearly his description his ability to provide a powerful narrative was most successful – I did learn a lot from his book.  However, this list of words simply spells out a way to help coordinate the complexity of a career.

The 10 “P-Words” Work in the Presence of Parkinson’s:  I have had Parkinson’s for the past 5-6 years, and I am still working full-time.  No doubt Parkinson’s affects each person differently; it allows some to continue to work and others must stop.   Some of the effects of Parkinson’s on my work: I type slower than I used to, stiffness takes over if I sit too long, and at times I lose my focus.  I remain hopeful that even under the influence of Parkinson’s I can stay focused on education and science until its time.  There are many great things influencing my life and work.   I want to be in the driver’s seat to get to that point when I can say “I’ve done enough!”. Simply put, I refuse to surrender to Parkinson’s. If you are still working, I’m happy for you.  Probably for those of us with Parkinson’s, the key P-words are to stay positive, remain patient, always persevere, and never lose your passion.

“When you are a young person, you are like a young creek, and you meet many rocks, many obstacles and difficulties on your way. You hurry to get past these obstacles and get to the ocean. But as the creek moves down through the fields, it becomes larges and calmer and it can enjoy the reflection of the sky. It’s wonderful. You will arrive at the sea anyway so enjoy the journey. Enjoy the sunshine, the sunset, the moon, the birds, the trees, and the many beauties along the way. Taste every moment of your daily life.”  Nhat Hanh


Cover photo credit:\s


2016 Whitehead Lecture: Advice, Life Stories and the Journey with Parkinson’s

“In giving advice I advise you, be short.” Horace

“The journey is what brings us happiness not the destination.” Dan Millman

Introduction: Last month, I presented the Whitehead Lecture to the UNC School of Medicine (SOM).  Here is what that means: “The annual Whitehead Lecture serves as an unofficial convocation for the School of Medicine. It is named in honor of Dr. Richard Whitehead, dean of the School of Medicine from 1890 to 1905. The Whitehead Lecturer is chosen by the SOM medical student governing body (Whitehead Medical Society). The selection is based on qualities of leadership, dedication, and devotion to medicine and teaching. Being elected to deliver the Whitehead Lecture is among the highest honors for faculty members at the School of Medicine.” (excerpted from

In my 30-something year academic career at UNC-CH this was the biggest honor I’ve  received from the School of Medicine.  Here is a link to the news article written about my ~15-min lecture and the other teaching awards given to faculty, residents/fellows, and medical students (click here).


Themes of Advice:  Below is a summary of the advice I gave to UNC-CH medical students to help them through their medical school journey (realizing I’m not a physician but a medical educator/biomedical researcher).  The lecture was divided up into 4 chapters: Chapter 1: Conflict of Interest Statement (this was done to start lightheartedly and to ‘try’ to be funny); Chapter 2: Core Values Learned from Growing up an “Air Force Brat” (childhood memories of my dad, Col. Church)Chapter 3: Life Stories and Advice Using Words that Begin with “H” (I  made a word-cloud with numerous words/phrases, e.g., Hope, Happy, Hospital, and Healthy Habits Harbor Happiness); and Chapter 4: Conclusions.


The advice/stories were accompanied by numerous pictures and my own personal-life-events to emphasize my side of my own advice.  Advice I tried to convey to the medical students regarding my Parkinson’s disease was as follows: (a) acceptance and adaptation while still living positively; (b) adversity is rarely planned but you must be proactive as it accompanies life; and (c) a wide range of illness (from good to bad) accompanies most disorders; thus, it matters how you approach and treat each individual person (patient) with every disorder.

“My definition of success: When your core values and self-concept are in harmony with your daily actions and behaviors.” John Spence

“Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way.” Satchel Paige

Chapter 1: Conflict of Interest Statement:


Chapter 2: Core Values Learned from Growing up as an “Air Force Brat:

slide1Core Value of Integrity:
A cornerstone of my dad’s influence on me was integrity, to always be honest.
Everything I did growing up needed teamwork and integrity added strength to each team.
•Your integrity leads you forward.
“Be as you wish to seem.” Socrates

Core Value of Service:
The USAF interpretation of service is a commitment to serve your country before self.
My commitment to service and to helping others is through education and biomedical research.
•Your own service enriches your life.
“To work for the common good is the greatest creed.” Albert Schweitzer

Core Value of Excellence:
The core value of excellence revolves around doing the task proudly and right.
My dad instilled in me the notion to work hard, centered on excellence because the task mattered no matter the importance of the task.
Through this same excellence, your life matters.
“Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” John W. Gardner

Chapter 3: Life Stories and Advice Using Words that Begin with “H”:

There will be times when classmates, team members, and patients ask you for help/advice; always try to be helpful.
You may need to be helped on some topic-issue; that is totally okay, you are not expected to do it all by yourself.
you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.” Gautama Buddha

Colleagues Who Have Helped Me To Become A Better Educator:
A very important part of my career is centered around medical education.  I am fortunate to have colleagues who are gifted teachers, who serve as wonderful role models, and who have given me sound advice/feedback on new teaching strategies and educational ideas.
This group includes Dr. Alice Ma, Dr. Tom Belhorn, SOM Teaching Champions (Dr. Kurt Gilliland, Dr. Ed Kernick, Dr. Gwen Sancar, Dr. Arrel Toews, Dr. Marianne Meeker, Dr. Sarah Street and this group included me), Dr. Joe Costello, Johanna Foster and Katie Smith.
Since joining the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine as an Assistant Professor (1987), I have had the privilege of teaching ~6,000 students (26 years of medical students x ~170 students/year = 4,420; 23 years of graduate students x ~20 students/year = 460; and 20 years of ~75 undergraduates/year = 1,500).

Find Your Holy Grail in Higher Education:
Challenge yourself, be goal-directed and discover where your passion resides (it could be patient care, research, education, service, policy, outreach, etc.).
Stay engaged in pursuit of your hallmark in higher education, which becomes your very own Holy Grail.
If you’re not happy, keep searching.
“What is known as success assumes nearly as many aliases as there are those who seek it. Like the Holy Grail, it seldom appears to those who don’t pursue it.” Stephen Birmingham

My Holy Grail in Higher Education (Hemostasis-Thrombosis Research):
34 years ago, 1982, I began my postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Roger Lundblad. Since 1986, as a basic biomedical researcher in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine [Research Assistant Professor (1985-1986), Assistant Professor (1987-1994), Associate Professor (with tenure, 1994-1999), and Professor (with tenure, 1999-present)] , I have had a wonderful and enriching academic research career that has helped train over 100 scientists: 17 graduate students; 12 postdoctoral fellows; 17 medical students; and 65 undergraduates.
My research (Holy Grail) is centered on:
Biological Chemistry of Coagulation Proteases and their Serine Protease Inhibitors (Serpins);
and Senescence-linked to the Pathophysiology of Venous
-Funding through NIH (NHLBI, NIA, and NINDS), American Heart Association, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Shown below left is the antithrombin/thrombin/heparin complex and below right, a 30-year history of some of the former/current lab personnel (1987, 2003, and 2016).


Handle Adversity in Your Journey:
We have expectations of what life should be like and what it should offer us; instead, accept what life gives you at the moment.
When life presents an obstacle, do your best to
handle adversity in your journey.
Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” Bernice Johnson Reagon

slide17Handling Adversity in My Journey:
Parkinson’s is a slowly progressing neurodegenerative disorder from the loss of dopamine-producing cells.
Dealing with an incurable disease like Parkinson’s is different than living with a terminal illness; you must accept that it’s part of your life for years to come.
Strive to live-forward, and always remember that we’re still in the driver’s seat of our world. Live decisively even as we accept the problems from Parkinson’s.” Frank C. Church

slide19Home Is Where The Heart Is:
1.Home is where the heart is. You love the place best which you call your home. That is where your heart lives.
2.Home is where the heart is. Wherever you feel most at home is where you feel you belong. That is where your heart is.
3.Your home may change many times over the coming years. Let your heart tell you where your home is.

Home Is Where My Heart Is (or Has Been for the Past 50 Years):
On a tennis court and on a golf course;
In a research laboratory and in a classroom teaching;
With family/loved ones.
“Let your heart tell you where your home is.”  Frank C. Church


Health (Heal, Healed, Healer):
Your foundation of knowledge is expanding to allow you to make decisions related to someone’s health.
You’ll likely encounter a spectrum of illness in your patients; health is like a rheostat that ranges from good to bad, mild to severe. Remember, you are treating a person with a disorder/illness.
“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” William Osler

Health (Heal, Healed, Healer) From My Perspective With Parkinson’s:
A Google search for “Parkinson’s disease: Images” shows these drawings from the 1880’s are still very prevalent (below left panel).
Yes, they accurately show the Cardinal signs of Parkinson’s: tremor, rigidity from muscle stiffness, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), postural instability, and facial masking.
However, these images suggest to many that all people-with-Parkinson’s must look and act like this.
An emerging picture of Parkinson’s today is (hopefully, below right panel) a person embracing an appropriate lifestyle with a treatment plan to manage and live with their symptoms.
My daily mantra: “Never give up; I refuse to surrender to Parkinson’s.” Frank C. Church


Chapter 4: Conclusions:
I am most pleased to welcome all of the new medical students (MS-1’s) to medical school and to everyone else, we’re glad you’re here.
The “USAF core values” could be of some use in your professional career and in your personal life.
Remember the “words that begin with the letter H”; they could be both supportive and comforting in your years of training.
We have one final “H word” to get through but I need YOUR voices…


“I believe that curiosity, wonder and passion are defining qualities of imaginative minds and great teachers; that restlessness and discontent are vital things; and that intense experience and suffering instruct us in ways that less intense emotions can never do.” Kay Redfield Jamison

Cover photo credit: Frank Church

Home Is Where The Heart Is: (1) and (2) partly adapted from Anila Syed, Wordophile.







Happiness and Parkinson’s: 10 Simple Suggestions to Make Your Life Happier

“Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.” Steve Maraboli

“No medicine cures what happiness cannot.” Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Introduction: Happiness, being positive, and remaining hopeful are “life-elements” important to us all. To give you an idea as to how important it is for us to achieve happiness, a Google search on “happiness and advice” gives more than 275,000 results. Here is one more to add to that huge list of advice on how-to-get-happier.

See yourself happy: The how-to-get-happier list* given below is neither complicated nor comprehensive. Each suggestion is easily within our grasp, and they are presented as a reminder of ways to bolster existing happiness. However, keep in mind what Abraham Lincoln said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” My list likely won’t change your life; hopefully, it will pave a short path to give you a happier moment/hour/day.

See yourself happy and with Parkinson’s: Living with Parkinson’s is like getting dressed wearing a blindfold; you remember exactly how your clothes are supposed to fit but the process is slow and awkward, and the result is imperfect. Ultimately, your life-years are subtly altered as this disorder slowly and frustratingly evolves in complexity.

Staying connected to these life-elements (happiness, positivity, and hopefulness) is essential to those of us with a progressive neurodegenerative disorder like Parkinson’s. The how-to-get-happier list* had its genesis as Frank’s “Parkinson’s-self-help-happy-tutorial”.  As a template-of-wellness, this list may help you derive (or rediscover) a little-slice of happiness during your journey with Parkinson’s.

  1. Stay in the present moment:  Life is always fluid, constantly moving.  Your Parkinson’s is always present, yes, it’s a nuisance. Being able to focus on the current moment, whether good or bad, hard or easy, is better; don’t complicate the thought dwelling on yesterday, tomorrow, or your disorder.  Try to stay in the present moment.
    “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” Amit Ray
  1. Go for a walk outside; stretch frequently; and exercise daily if possible: Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”  If you’ve followed this blog at all, you already know how I feel about all forms of exercise, stretching frequently, and trying to exercise daily. And for anyone with Parkinson’s, exercise is essential and beneficial. And it only takes 20 minutes to achieve some benefit: “Exercise. The Surprising Shortcut to Better Health”
    “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
  1. Eat better and your body will be happier: We all know this, you are what you eat.  A good meal >> bad meal.  Your body, mind and your battle with Parkinson’s will all benefit if you carve out time to eat better.
    “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb
  1. Mindful Meditation, even for 5 minutes will make a difference:   In managing Parkinson’s, we should work to release/relieve mental stress. Meditation reduces stress and allows us to become more mindful. Simply stated, meditation creates in you a stress-free, relaxed, and happy place.  For a primer, go here: How to Meditate (Made Easy): Mindfulness Meditation ( )
    “To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.” Jiddu Krishnamurti
  1. Do something nice for someone else: Be kind to others, you’ll feel better.  Doing something nice for someone else reminds you that you’re human; the happy-feeling should momentarily put your Parkinson’s behind shutters.
    “They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” Tom Bodett
  1. Smile more:  It just matters to smile, get out behind the “Parkinson’s mask”; smile big, smile more, keep trying.  “The smile — transmitted either consciously or subconsciously — is viewed across cultures as a sign of friendliness, especially when greeting someone. Frowns, too, are generally recognized as indicating sadness or disapproval.” (from )
    “I’ve got nothing to do today but smile.” Paul Simon
  1. Eat some chocolate (or share it with others):  Ignoring #3 above to eat better, chocolate falls in a unique sinful food class. Chocolate has compounds called polyphenols that can boost happiness. These same polyphenols may even benefit your health (but remember to only consume chocolate in small quantities): “The effects of cocoa on the immune system” ( ).
    “The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” Audrey Hepburn
  1. Practice gratitude: Be thankful for what you have today. Be thankful for your career, your life. Practice gratitude to help soothe passing moments of pain, doubt, or difficulty. Express your gratitude to family/friends/loved-ones; they’ll themselves will be grateful for you.
    “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” Maya Angelou
  1. Sleep more: Sleep repairs/rejuvenates our bodies and minds. Sleep renews our daily lease on life to begin again.  Unfortunately, many people with Parkinson’s say that sleep disorders and fatigue are some of the most difficult aspects of the disorder.  There is far too much information about the importance of sleep for your health. For those of us with Parkinson’s, we must keep trying to get more sleep.
    “I’m not a very good sleeper. But you know what? I’m willing to put in a few extra hours every day to get better. That’s just the kind of hard worker I am.” Jarod Kintz 
  2. Listen to a song or watch a YouTube music video: Sing along, re-live an earlier happy-memory, focus on the beat, get up and dance. And to each his own musical delight (for me, anything from Led Zeppelin makes me happy).
    Top 20 ‘Happy’ Songs of All Time:
    “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” Guillaume Apollinaire 

    Lagniappe [(/ˈlænjæp/ LAN-yap) a word used in south Louisiana, which means ‘a little something extra’]: 

  3. Stay hopeful, be positive, remain persistent because as long as you’re alive, you can do it all. As always, stay focused and determined; strive for health and strength. And through it all, try to incorporate happiness into your daily life to help manage your Parkinson’s.
    “Because you are alive, everything is possible.” Thích Nhất Hạnh

*I’d enjoy hearing what works for you. Please reply with your own how-to-get-happier list; let’s keep it going/growing.

Words Worth Living

“In all things it is better to hope than to despair.”  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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

A beginning: A common theme throughout this blog has been the inclusion of quotes to accompany my comments.  Searching and vetting these words are important to me, and several of you have commented on specific quotes used to-date.  The theme here revolves around words worth living, words of inspiration;  consistent with the comment by Cassandra Clare that “We live and breathe words.”

Being positive and staying strong: Having a disorder like Parkinson’s is like walking on the ocean’s shoreline where your feet sink a little into the sand as the wave moves you slightly by its impact; slowly evolving, subtly changing, mysteriously arriving. Finding meaning for a chronic illness requires being positive and staying strong. Pave a path as you walk through your own personal ‘ocean’s shoreline’ by constantly trying, step-by-step, and stay courageous. To support our journey, here are some words worth living derived from quotes on hope, courage, journey, persistence, positivity, strength, adversity, mindfulness, and life (please note that some quotes below have previously been used in these blog posts).

“Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.” George Iles

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” Thomas Merton

“No matter how dark the moment, love and hope are always possible.” George Chakiris

“While the heart beats, hope lingers.” Alison Croggon

“I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged.” Pope John Paul II

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” Barbara Kingsolver

“Courage is found in unlikely places.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston S. Churchill

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” Brené Brown

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. ” C.S. Lewis

“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.” L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

“We are each on our own journey. Each of us is on our very own adventure; encountering all kinds of challenges, and the choices we make on that adventure will shape us as we go; these choices will stretch us, test us and push us to our limit; and our adventure will make us stronger then we ever know we could be.”  Aamnah Akram

Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” Maya Angelou

“Every journey has a destination, known or unknown.”  Dean Koontz

“The only journey is the one within.” Rainer Maria Rilke

“The journey itself is going to change you, so you don’t have to worry about memorizing the route we took to accomplish that change.” Daniel Quin

“We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are.” Tobias Wolff

“It is in our genes to understand the universe if we can, to keep trying even if we cannot, and to be enchanted by the act of learning all the way.” Lewis Thomas

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.” Calvin Coolidge

“You may be the only person left who believes in you, but it’s enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness. Never give up.” Richelle E. Goodrich

“Sometimes life knocks you on your ass… get up, get up, get up!!! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.” Steve Maraboli

“The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor and style.” Maya Angelou

“The most important thing is to stay positive.” Saku Koivu

“Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” William James

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Edith Wharton

“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”  Lao Tzu

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” Peter Marshall

“Be strong. Live honorably and with dignity. When you don’t think you can, hold on.”  James Frey

“Perhaps I am stronger than I think.” Thomas Merton

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”  Steve Maraboli

“Everyone is handed adversity in life. No one’s journey is easy. It’s how they handle it that makes people unique.” Kevin Conroy

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” Ben Okri

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we truly are.” Arthur Golden

“Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it.”  Robertson Davies

“A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.”  Helen Keller

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” Thich Nhat Hanh

“To meditate means to go home to yourself. Then you know how to take care of the things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of the things that happen around you.” Thich Nhat Hanh

“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.” Thich Nhat Hanh

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” Thich Nhat Hanh

“We cannot tell what may happen to us in the strange medley of life. But we can decide what happens in us —how we can take it, what we do with it —and that is what really counts in the end.” Joseph Fort Newton

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

“Live to the point of tears.” Albert Camus

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.” Paulo Coelho

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  Joseph Campbell

An ending with two different thoughts: The words of Michael J. Fox always deal with the truth and reality of Parkinson’s yet they are reinforced by hope, courage and perseverance: For everything this disease has taken, something with greater value has been given–sometimes just a marker that points me in a new direction that I might not otherwise have traveled. So, sure, it may be one step forward and two steps back, but after a time with Parkinson’s, I’ve learned that what is important is making that one step count; always looking up.”

And I listened to this song recently, which has a meaningful sentiment (The Beatles “The End” from Abbey Road):  “And in the end / The love you take / Is equal to the love / You make.”

Cover photo credit:×512.jpg

Air Force Core Values And A Life Lived

“Integrity has no need of rules.” Albert Camus

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”  C.G. Jung

“Do ordinary things extraordinarily well.” Gregg Harris

USAF (United States Air Force) Core Values and Growing Up: “Integrity, service and excellence.” These three words represent the core values of the USAF, which reminds me of the early years of my life growing up as an “Air Force Brat” ( ).

Each summer for the past decade, my sisters and I meet at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola FL (U.S. Navy) for a family reunion. Each morning at NAS Pensacola, you are greeted with “First Call” (Reveille) followed by the playing of the National Anthem.  Everyone stops while the music plays; you face toward the flag if you can see it and stand at parade rest. If the flag is not within sight, then you face toward the music. At the end of the day, “Retreat” plays.  Throughout the day, jets and planes are constantly taking off and landing, sometimes in single file, other times, side-by-side. Exciting. Inspiring. Proud.  And this all brings back vivid memories of growing up, not on a Navy Air Station, but on an Air Force Base being “Colonel Church’s son”.  As I reflect here, the USAF Core Values ring true and strong to a young boy with a father in the USAF (below are a few pictures).

USAF.2.150722My formative years: (top left) Col. Church, my father; (top middle) sitting on my dad’s lap wearing a hat, to my right are my two sisters; (top right) meeting the Base Commander; (bottom left) baseball (I’m second on the left in the row kneeling); (bottom middle) golf tournament (I’m second from the right); and (bottom right) parents dancing.

Integrity: The earliest positive influence on my life was my dad; and it all started with integrity through his actions. A fundamental cornerstone of my dad’s influence on me was to always be honest. To be honest with all others and to be honest with yourself. Almost everything I did growing up required teamwork and bringing integrity provided strength to each team and to me.  Staying true to your own word when no one is watching is always the right way. Your integrity leads you forward.
“Be good to your work, your word, and your friend.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Service:  The USAF interpretation of service is a commitment to serve your country before self.  The commitment to service was ever present. I lived in awe of my dad’s dedication and service to his USAF career and drive to serve our country.  As an adult, I too possess a commitment to service and to help others; primarily through education and biomedical research. Service and helping others; taught to me at a young age and greatly influenced by my father serves me well in academics today. Your own service enriches your life.
“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” Kahlil Gibran

Excellence: The final core value of excellence revolves around doing the task proudly and right.  My father went from being a pilot to managing missiles; a career centered on national safety.  He instilled in me the notion to work hard and well, centered around excellence (because the task mattered no matter the importance of the task).  My life has not always resulted in excellence but it was always done as well/properly as I was able.  From this ability to work hard, I realized what I did best was science research and teaching; this continues as I strive for excellence.  Through this same excellence, your life matters too.
“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life.” Steve Jobs

Integrity. Service. Excellence: “The foundation is integrity, fortified by a commitment to the service of our country, and fueled by a drive in excellence in all that we do. The Air Force recognizes integrity first, service before self, and excellence as its core values…Learn these lessons well. They will serve you well in your professional career and your personal life.” (from the USAF “Core Values” video)

Parkinson’s. Air Force Core Values. A Life Lived: Living with Parkinson’s is teaching me about life and what matters the most.  My recent summer stay on the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola brought back a flood of early life memories.  Although the Core Values were only recently adopted by the USAF; these were fundamental values taught to me by my USAF father.  And I am forever grateful for his influence to infuse these values into the fabric of my life:
These values allow me to focus on living a full life with Parkinson’s; no regrets, live a positive life-style.
These values allow me to accept my diagnosis; they provide strength to live-forward without self-pity.
These values allow me to remain positive; they let me stay hopeful and determined.
These values remind me of my father; his values provided a template for the foundation of my life.

“Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats for you and no crowds shout your name. ” Robert Louis Stevenson

People With Parkinson’s: The Journey To Better

“Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.” Norman Vincent Peale

The Journey To Better [The (definite article thē, ˈthē\ used, especially before a noun, with a specifying or particularizing effect) Journey (noun jour·ney \ˈjər-nē\ an act of traveling from one place to another) To (preposition \tə, tu̇, ˈtü\ used to indicate the place, person, or thing that someone or something moves toward) Better (adjective bet·ter \ˈbe-tər\ higher in quality)]:

1. The moment you believe that with work and sustained effort, you can live through the slowly evolving path of Parkinson’s; become belligerent against Parkinson’s and stay the course.
“Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.” Rose Kennedy

2. The moment you practice mindfulness and breathe deep to still your mind, to relax your stiff body, and to allow the sun outside to percolate within; staying mindful during your walks will enlighten your heart.
“In Asian languages, the word for ‘mind’ and the word for ‘heart’ are same. So if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it. Compassion and kindness towards oneself are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

3. The moment you realize this is a life-altering event, adapt, survive, create positive changes, keep moving, and focus; life-altering yes but use Parkinson’s to reaffirm your life-living effort.
“In fact, Parkinson’s has made me a better person. A better husband, father and overall human being.” Michael J. Fox

4. The moment you use persistence in managing your disorder by knowing how to counter its difficult effects (e.g., by frequent stretching and daily exercise, by staying warm, trying not to stress, trying to be less self-conscious, and getting enough sleep); work hard ever second of every future minute/hour/day/week/month/year ahead and live fully by staying persistent to Parkinson’s.
“You are only a prisoner when you surrender.” Tad Williams

5. The moment you become educated about Parkinson’s and better understand its complex issues that cause complicated physiological disturbances; thus, a better personalized-treatment strategy will evolve when you talk with your Neurologist.
“Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.”  C.S. Lewis

6. The moment you are grateful for everyone in your life, for all you have, the battle against Parkinson’s is now on level ground; your gratitude will be felt by those around you, giving you renewed strength and new life-leverage.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

7. The moment you practice wholeheartedness you will live honestly by owning and embracing life in its fullest extent; each day ahead will behave differently then ever before (good/not as good/difficult), yet your life still matters a lot.
“There are many tenets of Wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerability and worthiness; facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough.” Brené Brown

8. The moment you become positive knowing that the obstacles of Parkinson’s are ever present unless you mount a strong countermeasure; focus positively to not become distracted by this disorder.
“In the game of life, we all receive a set of variables and limitations in the field of play. We can either focus on the lack thereof or empower ourselves to create better realities with the pieces we play the game with.” T.F. Hodge

9. The moment you strive to be strong, both physically and emotionally, is critical because our disorder will slowly evolve; staying strong in all aspects of your life allows you to better resist these changes.
“Sometimes life knocks you on your ass… get up, get up, get up!!! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.” Steve Maraboli

10. The moment you become hopeful as you deal with the daily nuances of Parkinson’s; always remember a heart that sees hope stays strong and will not wither over the course of the rest of your life.
“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.” Samuel Smiles

The journey to better: Allow your loved-ones, family, friends, and colleagues to join you on this new life-trek. Stay on a focused path as you navigate this adventure, this journey to better.  Like you, I am trying hard to keep focused on what matters the most; in spite of my Parkinson’s, I am still here, and you’re still here.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

Hope Resides Within the Adversity of Parkinson’s

“We are each on our own journey. Each of us is on our very own adventure; encountering all kinds of challenges, and the choices we make on that adventure will shape us as we go; these choices will stretch us, test us and push us to our limit; and our adventure will make us stronger then we ever know we could be.” Aamnah Akram

Hope: It matters that we remain hopeful because life frequently takes a positive twist at a moment’s notice. We are at a turning point for major advances in treating and understanding Parkinson’s. My hope is further fueled every day from reading blogs and news releases about this disorder. We must stay the course, treat our symptoms proactively, and use this hope to try to stymie the expected Parkinson’s progression.
“Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.” Emily Dickinson

Adversity: The road ahead will not get easier; however, no matter how difficult the future becomes, we can meet it headlong to accept the challenge. We will learn much about ourselves as we experience adversity, and we can still thrive and live better from its aftermath. Keep active mentally and emotionally, and stay physically strong as we’re able. This new-life force will ease our travels through the adversity.
Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we truly are.” Arthur Golden

Awake each morning: Each new day renews our life, our contract to keep living.  Strive to live-forward, and always remember that we’re still in the driver’s seat of our world. Live decisively even as we accept the problems from Parkinson’s.  Most definitely stay you, each and every (future) day in your life.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Marcus Aurelius

Joy: Remind yourself on a daily basis what brings you happiness. Whatever it is, find that place, and go there each and every day. It may be athletic endeavors, work, bird watching, morning coffee, sunrise/sunset, reading a book/newspaper, loving your grandchildren; what matters most is that it makes you happy.
“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” Joseph Campbell

Strength and courage:  We need strength, courage and confidence to live with Parkinson’s. Unfortunately, our symptoms may vary somewhat each day but Parkinson’s will never take a vacation. Don’t give in to the wickedness that lurks with Parkinson’s. Our daily experiences will allow us to gain momentum, and we will be ready to face the changes brought on by Parkinson’s.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Hope and love: Use hope and love to provide answers and relief, especially when your confidence diminishes. In these difficult moments, that’s when you count on the people you love to come to your aide.  Through their support and love, they will enable you to restore your hope in the future.
“No matter how dark the moment, love and hope are always possible.” George Chakiris

Mindfulness, contentment, and gratitude: “Embracing mindfulness helps you stay centered on the current moment, contentment allows you to be less worried about what’s missing, and it’s always important to remind yourself to be grateful.” ( ) Changing your mindset to incorporate all three into your daily life will release your stress, rejuvenate your heart, and clearly make your day more manageable.
“People sacrifice the present for the future. But life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Hope resides within the adversity of Parkinson’s: With or without Parkinson’s, we will have good and bad mornings, afternoons, and/or evenings. Life happens. For me, my daily life includes many simple goals: staying ‘big’ in my “LSVT BIG” PT exercise program (and keeping my PT’s happy); smoothly shifting the 6 gears of my car (yes, it has a clutch); planning several new medical school lectures for the fall; cleaner razor shave-face; hitting a golf ball better; being more mindful; folding clean clothes sooner; and sleeping better/longer.  You get it, a sampling of my daily list of things to accomplish. We each have our own meaningful list and daily goals to achieve. This is the day-to-day strength we require, our need for hope and courage to manage the annoying routine-life adversities from Parkinson’s.

However, I truly believe that our current-future life with Parkinson’s will rely on hope, strength, courage, joy and love outweighing the adversity and challenges ahead. It is crucial to stay focused on each day from start to finish. Certainly, our life-barometer may occasionally vary, try to stay firmly committed to a positive life.

Always remember, your life matters now with Parkinson’s as much as it did before Parkinson’s. Stay hopeful as you navigate adversity, stay you in spite of your Parkinson’s.

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.” Helen Keller

*Cover Picture Credit: by Trey Ratcliff