Parkinson's Straight from the Horse's Mouth

Welcome to the blog of Barbara Waters. Experience my personal up's and down's in this new cycle of becoming a Parkinsonian. All is not doom and gloom! Join me on this adventure within and without.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Angels All Around

My friend had changed her conventional name Linda Ann to conventional Linda, dropped her middle name and family last name, and adopted unconventional An as a last name. Now, every time one forgets and calls her "Linda Ann," it is really her first and last names being used -- "Linda An." It's as if one would say in my case, "Please pass the salt, Barbara Waters." You've lost a friend and gained a stranger. We remain friends, nevertheless, with mutual interests.

Linda An writes spiritual poetry and is a reliable caregiver for difficult occasions, having taken care of her frail mother. A large woman, she can easily wrestle into shape the light transport wheelchair I sometimes use in public. And of course we have our helpers.

As we left the neurologist's office on August 4, a tall man with his hair drawn back in a ponytail patiently held open a series of exit doors for us and my wheelchair to pass through.

"He's our Third Angel," I said to Linda AN. "He even has a ponytail like our first one"

"Thank you for all your help," she said to him. "You are an Angel."

To my surprise, his face beamed and he exclaimed, "Why, THANK you." He was actually pleased at the thought. Or perhaps at the recognition.

A second, short-haired male angel had helped us enter through the same difficult doors.

Our First Angel had been the most impressive. He had materialized outside our car a month before at the Taos hospital when we were trying to squeeze me out of the car in order to have some xrays taken. I'd had my first bout with pneumonia and was very weak. Pneumonia, by the way, is one of the leading causes of death for Parkinsonians
due to rigidity pulling key chest muscles out of place, thereby reducing cavity space.

Suddenly this man wearing a shiny navy-blue, one-piece astronaut's suit appeared beside my open car door. He had on white sneakers and his hands were covered with a pair of cream-colored rubber gloves. His long blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail; a card on his chest read "LAB."

"Let me do it," he said.

In an intricate maneuver, he reached sideways over the top of the car door, lifted me up by the armpits, pivoted to his left, and plopped me outside the car into the waiting wheelchair. He saw us inside the entrance doors, then disappeared as Linda An wheeled me over to the xray reception room.

"Where did that man come from?" I asked.

He materialized again beside the door in the hallway.

"I was just taking a break from the lab upstairs where I work," he said.

"What upstairs?" I said to the empty hallway. "There is no upstairs here."

I sometimes cry out of gratitude for all these helpers everywhere, whoever or whatever they are.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bedside Manner

The neurologist ended our fifteen-minute appointment by handing me a torn plastic bag containing 50 Stalevo-50 pills.

"These 50 sample pills are each 50 strength," he said "There are also 100 and 150 strengths that you'll work your way up to in time. Begin with one 50-strength pill daily and increase the number of pills twice a day until you feel better."

"Will you be calling me next week to check on how I'm doing?"

"I can't be telephoning all the patients I have. You call me."

"I see from this label that two of the three ingredients are levodopa and carbidopa. That's Sinemet, isn't it? Which means it will only help me for five years at the most."

"You should be worrying about THIS year, not five years from now," he scolded. "Besides, by then you'll be 81 years old!"

The way he said it, 81 years old sounded older than dirt and ready for the dumpster. My hackles began to rise.

Hastily my peace-loving helper interjected, "Two things Barbara has plenty of are brains and a strong will."

"Good," the doctor said as he hurried out of the room.

"Maybe he didn't want to be there any more than we did," I said to Linda An on our way home.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Moment of Truth

Frank, my second husband, always said it was "love at first sight" when we met in July of 1970 at his house. But I think he really fell in love with me on August 4, Santo Domingo Day, while watching the best annual Indian dance in northern New Mexico. We stood on a low mud rooftop, me in a cornflower blue fiesta dress matching my eyes. Throbbing between us, I could feel in my solar plexus the electricity from the deep belly drums. "You look just like Janey, his second wife!" marvelled Evelyn Sinclair. Ever since, August 4th has been my Lucky Day. Until August 4, 2006.

No fanfare of trumpets heralded the big news on August 4, 2006. No climactic MRI or CAT scan. No family or medical histories written down, nor any list of current medications. Merely a cursory checking of my reflexes, arm and eye movements, and five walking steps.

Then bluntly the Santa Fe neurologist said on August 4, 2006, "You have Parkinson's Disease."

I guess he didn't know it was supposed to be my Lucky Day.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

In the beginning....

"I am willing to pay the Piper when I have had a good dance," ailing Theodore Roosevelt said near the end of his life.

I too have had a good dance.

For seven decades I've two-stepped through the cycles of becoming a daughter, sister, honors student, lover, wife, mother of two, mother-in-law, grandmother, great-grandmother, animal-lover, horse-woman, nature-lover, hiker, business-woman, English teacher, psychotherapist, journalist, editor, author of the memoir Celebrating the Coyote, world-traveler, Frank Waters Foundation executive director and president, caregiver, and steward of our land.

In these roles I have danced the life fantastic. But it will take the wisdom gleaned from all 24 of these steps in order to shine in my two final earthly roles (Parkinsonian and archetypal Wise Old Woman) with grace, spirit, and a sprinkling of humor. Why fret, "Why me?" I prefer to leave the howling and the whining to my dog, Francisco, and waltz on.