Don’t Let Parkinson’s Take the Blame for Everything

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by Lori DePorter |

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I try to be productive while in the waiting room and today is no exception. However, this time I am not in a neurology waiting room. This time, it’s rheumatology. Why rheumatology? This is my story.

When I was diagnosed five years ago, one doctor told me two things that have stayed with me.

  1. You live with Parkinson’s. You die with Parkinson’s. You don’t die from having Parkinson’s.
  2. Don’t let Parkinson’s take the blame for everything — other medical issues happen.

It’s true that Parkinson’s is with you your entire life and there are complications. However, it’s not a death sentence. It’s a chronic illness that can be managed with lifestyle changes and medicine. With a chronic illness, it’s easy for other medical issues to be overlooked. I have become more in tune with my health, especially my Parkinson’s.

Over the last few months, I felt “off.” When I mentioned it, the response was: “You’re fine. It’s probably Parkinson’s.” Normally, I would agree. However, this time was different. It was not my Parkinson’s.

It was not Parkinson’s, but what was it?

Rather than self-diagnosing, I saw my primary care physician. She ordered a complete blood work-up. The results were “within the normal range” with one exception — my thyroid hormone levels. They were trending upward so my doctor said we would repeat the test in a few months. My immediate reaction was: “Oh no! I am getting older and it is menopause!”

As suspected, my hormone levels continued to climb, indicating my thyroid was underactive. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and started levothyroxine to replace the hormones my body needed. Follow-up bloodwork indicated “within the normal range.” However, my ANA marker was positive which meant I had an antibody and possibly an autoimmune disorder. Articles have referred to Parkinson’s as an autoimmune disease. So, could Parkinson’s take the blame for my current health issue? It was still a puzzle.

An autoimmune disorder?

Appointments with both an endocrinologist and a rheumatologist meant more bloodwork — five vials of blood and 12 tests. One test confirmed that I had the thyroid antibody. The endocrinologist called and diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder that causes your immune system to attack your thyroid, leading to hypothyroidism. Finally, the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fall into place.

Rheumatology and the 11 remaining test results for various other autoimmune disorders were next. However, the doctor had to reschedule two days before my appointment and the next available opening wasn’t for two months. Two months of waiting for results was not an option for me. I waited two months for my Parkinson’s diagnosis. I did not handle it well and it was not something I wanted to do again.

I went into full-blown panic mode. I yelled at someone who was unfortunately given the task of calling me to reschedule. It was not her fault. She had no knowledge of my history or my anxiety. Apologizing, I scheduled the first available appointment and was placed on a cancellation list.

I don’t know who called me that day but I am grateful to her. Somehow, she knew I needed answers because a few hours later, my phone rang. My report was on my portal and I was offered an appointment later that afternoon.

Going over the remaining results, the rheumatologist solved the puzzle. I had to blame my thyroid this time … not my Parkinson’s.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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