Parkinson's and me

Logo for Parkinson's Awareness Week 2015, slogan, I've unzipped my friendly for Parkinson's UK One evening in February 2012 I sat on my sofa to watch Pointless and realised that my body was vibrating gently. For a while I’d had an occasional tremor that I put down to anxiety or even the power of the Holy Spirit. I realised it was now with me all the time. I went to see my GP and, 6 months later, after a couple of visits to the neurology clinic and an MRI scan, my Consultant Neurologist, Dr Hu, told me, "You have Parkinson's."

It's not contagious

The word “disease” is not really appropriate for this condition. It’s a disability rather than a disease so I just call it “Parkinson’s”. It’s not contagious and no viruses are involved. It comes about because cells in my brain which have the job of producing dopamine start to die. Dopamine is a chemical which the brain uses to transmit messages from one cell to another. No one knows why these cells die. Breathing in toxins or solvents is one theory.  A range of problems ensues and each Parkinson’s sufferer has a different combination of symptoms, different levels of severity and different rates of degeneration.

Slow degeneration

I’ve noticed a slow degeneration of my condition in the years since. The Parkinson tremor is a resting tremor, which may disappear when I concentrate on doing something. For seversl years I could drive and ride a bike but sometimes couldn't sit still! My tremor is mostly controlled by medication (currently 14 tablets a day and  a transdermal patch). The medication makes me drowsy sometimes and liable to drop off to sleep. It tends to wear off in the early  hours of the morning, causing me to lose sleep, which aggra vates the drowsiness.  Sometimes I get "restles legs" when the medication is wearing off. The tremor gets worse when I am excited. I also have a bit of stiffness and jerkiness in my muscles and a tendency to constipation and my voice has been affected – it’s not as resonant as it was and I struggle to make myself heard in a noisy environment.

Motor skills

The most annoying symptom is a decline in my fine motor skills which has become more noticeable arecently. It affects tasks like handwriting, typing, dealing with shirt buttons, getting cards out of my wallet, turning a key in a lock or using a screwdriver. I can do all these things but it takes more time and concentration than it used to. My swallowing reflex has gone. I've stopped driving, and no longer ride a bike.

I can still use a computer keyboard or mobile phone, with difficulty. I’m still able to be involved in teaching, preaching and prayer ministry. I walk, do exercises and go to the gym regularly to keep Parkinson’s at bay. I’m taking part in a Parkinson’s research programme and I’ve donated my amazing, marvellous brain to the Parkinson’s Brain bank in the hope that someobody can learn something from it after I die. Incidentally, as one sufferer said, "You don't die from Parkinson's, you die with it." 

In the midst of all this I’ve been fitted with a pacemaker to overcome some irregularities in my heartbeat which may or may not relate to Parkinsons and/or the medication that goes with it.

Research

Some hopeful research is taking place. Scientists  now think it's caused by something wrong in the gut, not the brain. There's hope that a cure may be found in a few years' time.

Treasure in jars of clay

As a Christian I believe Jesus still heals today and I’m standing hopefully in line. At the same time, I also know that the Bible says that “our outer nature is wasting away” so miracles of healing are an exception, not the rule. Our bodies are just “clay jars” filled with treasure (see The Bible, 1 Corinthians 4). The jar may crumble and crack with age but the treasure inside will last forever.That's what is important.

To quote some of my favourie clichés, "Mustn't grumble! Aways look on the bright side. Worse things happen at sea. What can't be helped must be endured. Count your blessings! Let it make you better, not bitter…" all good advice. No, honestly, Life for me is still good and God's giving me strength. it could be worse. and unfortunately for some people it is.  Visit the Parkinson UK website where you can find out how to help them and make a donation. Thanks for reading this. Well done if you've got this far.

There’s a good video clip on Youtube.

 


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