Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
Danish philosopher (1813 – 1855)
I embarked on a circuitous route for three years headed for an unknown destination. Only later would I understand a myriad of Parkinson’s signs.
A four-hour drive to a book fair left me struggling to get out of my car. I had driven the same car for five years and now I had to drag myself out of the car. I thought this challenge came with “aging” since I had recently turned 61.
I was walking awkward. My gait was off. I used to walk fast. My long fluid strides were gone. It seemed like I had forgotten how to walk.
I was at a weekly yoga class. I don’t recall what pose I was attempting on my right side. What I do remember is my teacher’s comment.
“I recommend you see a neurologist.”
One morning a professor was running late. She asked me to write a note on the chalk board so students would wait. To my astonishment, I could not write big. Over two years, my handwriting got tinier and almost illegible. Joe had trouble reading my notes. I could barely read my own minuscule handwritten “To Do” lists. Still I was not alarmed. I thought my problem was right elbow tendonitis. Even a doctor thought so.
When it was time to prepare hand written Thanksgiving cards for the faculty, my graduate assistants wrote the message. I managed to sign 50 cards.
While walking on the campus, a colleague on an adjacent sidewalk called out to me.
“What’s wrong with your arm?”
“What do you mean?”
“You are holding your right arm funny.”
I looked down and the arm was stiff and slightly curved across my stomach. That’s odd.
“Oh, nothing. It is fine.”
I paid attention to my arms and noticed my right arm did not swing when I walked. It just hung at my side. I was perplexed. I watched people walk and arms moved. Even children moved their arms! My arm responded to my command: swing that arm. However, I never had to talk to my arm before to get it to move. I thought maybe I had suffered a mini stroke.
Pain in my right elbow was unbearable. The year before I moved a piece of furniture and then aggravated the injury while carrying a heavy shopping bag. I also spent most working hours on the computer. I managed the pain with acupuncture and a steady diet of Aleve. An orthopedic surgeon diagnosed tendonitis. A physical therapist administered treatments for several months. I eventually got better. In October, a can of cat food hit the top of my right foot causing a hairline fracture and pain that trumped the elbow pain!
After my foot healed, a balance problem developed. I tipped backwards without warning. If I stooped down, I landed on the floor. I consulted an ear specialist certain he would find an inner ear issue or worse yet an acoustic neuroma. After various negative tests, a MRI also ruled out a brain tumor. I was advised to see a neurologist.
I saw a nurse practitioner for an unrelated issue. A casual conversation led to mentioning my balance and walking challenges. With a serious look and tone she said, “You need to see a neurologist immediately.” The next morning she called with a referral.
May 13, 2014
I reached the destination of a long three-year journey. In a simple two-hour consultation that uncovered Parkinson’s signs, the neurologist puzzled out diagnosis.
Question: What were your Parkinson’s signs that led to diagnosis?
I would love to hear your story.
Photo Credit Jamie Street