30 Days of Parkinson’s: When Given a Choice, I Take the Path of Laughter

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30 Days of Parkinson's

Photo courtesy of Richard S. Hunter

Day 16 of 30

This is Richard S. Hunter’s story:

Have you ever walked down a street when suddenly a person with a severe handicap came into view? The individual is far enough away to allow you a moment of staring. You are not disrespecting the individual, but instead, studying the person, the situation, and the bravery it takes to walk within a broken body — to be trapped inside a damaged shell, with a sharp mind, on the inside looking out. 

My name is Richard and I used to wonder what sort of bravery or inner strength it must take to wake up every day to a nightmare that is reality. Now, I see the world from within my own broken body, on the inside looking out. In December 2014, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Today as I walk my own walk, others study me.

My family and friends are comfortable asking me questions to satisfy their curiosity. My canned answer is always the same: “I can’t seem to shake it.” My laughter morphs the awkwardness into understanding, and comfort.

When given a choice, I will always take the path of laughter. Why would I want to spend precious time stuck in some rabbit hole of depression? How would that benefit me or put at ease those who love me? 

Being told you have Parkinson’s has an initial numbing effect. There are five emotions to navigate before getting on with life: shock, denial, anger, fear, and acceptance.

I was blessed to soar through the first four, landing solidly on my feet in the realm of acceptance. I can make jokes about my situation, putting myself and those around me at ease. There was a time when I avoided interacting with others who have more advanced Parkinson’s for fear of looking into the mirror of my own future. Now, I run a support group for those with the disease and their caregivers. I faced my fear and conquered it.

I hope you enjoy reading my story. And, if you see me on the street, please stop me and allow me to shake your hand (pun intended).

Parkinson’s News Today’s 30 Days of Parkinson’s campaign will publish one story per day for Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofPAR, or go here to see the full series.