The Diagnosis

In April of this year, my wife & I had an appointment with a neurologist. The complaint was occasional minor tremors. Nothing significant, but we wanted to have it checked out.
Imagine my shock when after completing his evaluation, the doctor said “You have Parkinson’s Disease.”.
I flashed back to (and talked about) my late sister-in-law who 20 years ago, suffered from Parkinson’s. Toward the end, she was wheel-chair bound and could not speak (but did communicate by squeezing my hand whenever we saw her). The doctor quickly corrected me with “Don’t let your memory of a person who had Parkinson’s 20 years ago color your expectations for today. There have been major treatment advances since then, including many new drugs that did not then exist.”.  And he said, “There is a tremendous amount of research being conducted that I know will someday lead to a cure.”.
Since that day in April, we have together gone to a multi-hour Parkinson’s overview presentation at University Hospital, participated in several webinars, heard an excellent talk about the importance of exercise, and spent hours online looking at the fantastic Michael J. Fox Parkinson’s Foundation website. We both continue our twice-weekly personal trainer workouts, and together walk a mile and a half every day, rain or shine. On top of all this we have had a tremendous outpouring of support from friends, family, our rabbis, and my wonderful clients.
I think I have come to grips with the diagnosis. Mostly, I buy into: “If you have to have an illness, Parkinson’s isn’t all that bad.”   “It is an inconvenience, not something that is life-threatening.” “There are no travel restrictions (and we do enjoy travel)…you just become tired more easily.”
The one thing that I have not been able to accept is that it is my wife who has the disease. How I wish it had been me instead. Would have been easier for me to deal with.
Still, both of us have more than our fair share of things to be thankful for:
1. We have had 50 wonderful years of marriage together and, God willing, many more to come.
2. We have two grown children who make us more proud to be their parents each day.  A daughter who is a teacher of children…imagine that!  She teaches 5th graders how to lead happy, productive, successful lives.   A son who works tirelessly to save our planet and to improve social justice for all (We agree on many things, but not everything.) while he defends the Earth.  Did I mention that last week, he presented his documentary film to rave reviews in a sold-out Denver movie theater? Well he did!
3. My wife & I have both made it into our seventies with no illnesses until now. Wow! It could have been something much worse…and it wasn’t!
4. While not wealthy, we are OK financially. No complaints.
5. I enjoy helping my clients.  My “work” is not really work…I’m having too much fun to call it that.
6. The two of us are far more than OK relationship-wise.  The relationship between my wife and myself, while always strong, has become so much stronger.  We often laugh aloud about our good fortune in finding each other. Or was it a blessing? We think the latter.
Those of you who are long-term readers of this eNewsletter know that I seldom share details of my personal life…and you never see anything about my wife (you have not yet read her name).  However, this diagnosis of Parkinson’s is too important to keep secret.
So what can you learn from this?   It can happen to anyone…at any time…no matter how healthy you think you are.  When a diagnosis does hit, you had better have your plan in place for providing long term care services.  My wife is now uninsurable.  Fortunately, we each have good coverage that was purchased years ago…when we were both healthy enough to buy it.  When my wife’s symptoms inevitably progress to the point that we need professional care, our insurance will pay for that care…from the care provider who best meet my wife’s needs.
We will not become dependent upon our children, or upon Medicaid, the endangered government welfare program.
I do not wish to make my wife’s illness into a commercial.  So I will close with this: Contact me if you have questions about Parkinson’s or if you just want to talk.
© 2017 by Raymond Smith, The Long Term Care Specialist

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