Dave A's PD Story
I was diagnosed at age 46, in April of 2017, smack in the middle of Parkinson's Awareness Week. I can’t decide if that is ironic, or fitting.
It’s hard to say when the Parkinson’s actually really began. I had symptoms for several years prior, but they were always dismissed as something else. Neck and shoulder pain and stiffness were said to be caused by a previous injury. Olfactory hallucinations (phantom smells) and loss of smell were blamed on sinus issues. Extreme fatigue was blamed on depression/allergies/laziness. Issues like anxiety, apathy, and mild cognitive issues were hidden by me and so slow to arise that they didn’t cause alarm.
Within a couple of years, I started noticing an occasional tremor in my right hand and just called it ‘nerves’. My wife noticed, a couple of times and I mentioned it, but I wasn’t worried yet. Finally the tremor became present more frequently, and was more pronounced, and then I became concerned. I started doing some online self-diagnosing on medical websites and the one that always came out on top was, of course, Parkinson’s Disease.
I scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician and remember thinking that I hoped my tremor would be present during the visit, so he could see it. That seems funny to me now, because shortly after that visit my tremor became present during all waking hours.
My doctor did get to see my tremor and I could see the look of concern on his face. So, that office visit led to a referral to a neurologist and a bunch of tests to rule out other things. They all came back negative, but the neurologist still didn’t feel comfortable diagnosing it as Parkinson’s. So, she referred me to a Movement Disorder Specialist at University of Texas Health Science Center.
Several months later, when I was finally able to see the MDS, my tremor had become very strong and persistent. The doctor took one office visit and said the words “You have Parkinson’s Disease.” By this time, I was already sure that’s what it was, but it was still shocking to hear him say it. Forunately, the doctor had a very positive attitude and explained that he was going to keep me living a ‘normal’ life for a very long time, and his goal was to keep me working until retirement age. He made my wife feel at ease, but it was still a long strange drive home. I’m sure she cried later, when I wasn’t around. I never cried. I just kind of accepted it. What else could I do, really?
A year later, I have found a combination of meds that help my motor symptoms, and have come to terms with being a ‘Parkie’. All that means is I now have a different reality that involves taking multiple medications several times a day just to get to what appears to be a near normal state. I still have some symptoms that the meds don’t help and others that the meds only partially help, and I have other issues brought on or amplified by the medication, but I’m happy and feel blessed to have a way to control my tremor, for now.