30 Days of PD: I Try to Focus On Today

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Barbara Traynor

Photo courtesy of Barbara Traynor

Day 1 of 30

This is Barbara Traynor’s story:

“Don’t blame everything on Parkinson’s, Barbara.” Sage advice from my first neurologist, a most knowledgeable and compassionate man.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2014 at age 75, and am ashamed to say that upon hearing my diagnosis, I yelled at him, “I’m not going to change my lifestyle!”

He tilted back in his chair. “You don’t have to” was his quiet reply. So, this independent, stubborn woman began her journey with Parkinson’s. Each time I stumble, I return to his advice.

What did I do next? I ran away! In 2005, I was living a unique retirement lifestyle, volunteering at organizations (in the U.S.) that offered free room and board. All I had to do was get there.

After my diagnosis, my eldest son offered an in-law apartment which allowed me to leave right after Christmas and return in June: six months to volunteer, six months with family and friends. Why not? I had my health, cellphone, car, and monthly Social Security check for expenses. I had nine years of exploring, traveling to places previously imagined. It was now December 2014 and I was scheduled to arrive at the Menaul School in Albuquerque by Jan. 10. It was another cross-country trip planned with logic and common sense, overnights with friends, sights to visit, a calm drive to a happy destination.

I asked myself at the time: Do I stay or go? Do I share my diagnosis? How do I tell my children? I could not say the word “Parkinson’s” without crying.

I decided to go. It was my second stint at Menaul, so all was familiar. I was greeted by volunteers and dedicated school staff. I would have an entire semester to ponder my secret while adjusting to what I imagined would be a future of deliberate, debilitating decline into dependency. I searched the internet, voraciously reading, finding a support group whose members restored my sanity, bolstering my resolve to survive this newest obstacle in my life. My volunteering continued until 2017.

Now, I try to focus on today. Parkinson’s is a demanding malady. My defense? Copious exercise, a vegetarian diet, and humor — motion is lotion.

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

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