My Top Tips for a Newly Diagnosed Parkinson’s Patient
Dear new Parkinson’s patient (aka Parkie),
Welcome to your new lifelong community. It’s sort of like you are marrying the disease.
“Do you, new Parkinson’s patient, take this disease to be your (maybe not one and only) condition?”
“Sadly, I do, until death do us part.”
When you’re newly diagnosed, this can be a scary time full of unanswered questions. That is where I come to the rescue. In my 10 years of living with Parkinson’s, I have learned a lot, and I would like to pass along some of my knowledge to you.
Sharing your diagnosis
Don’t feel pressured to tell people about your diagnosis — tell them whenever you feel ready to do so.
In my situation, I had received my diagnosis the day before Thanksgiving, and with over 50 family members gathering for the holiday, I felt it was imperative that I tell them right away so I wouldn’t have to keep repeating myself.
But when it came to telling my college classmates, it took me a few months to tell all of them. I’m glad I eventually shared my diagnosis with them because it shed some light on why I had been acting differently that year.
Exercise, exercise, exercise! I’ll admit I’m not the best at this, but please know that our bodies can still do powerful things. You have to find the type of exercise that works best for you and ensure it’s something you’ll keep up with.
I know it can be tough to work out on days when your body is not cooperating, but we can still benefit from the effects of exercise and movement. My favorite exercises are cycling on my trike, walking, Zumba, Rock Steady boxing, and dancing, including tap, ballet, and jazz.
Everyone needs a support system, whether or not they have Parkinson’s.
I find it helpful to have two groups of friends. One includes people with Parkinson’s who I can talk to about everything because they know exactly what I’m going through. The other group includes friends that knew me before my diagnosis. They treat me exactly the same now as they did before I knew I had Parkinson’s.
Just remember the Girl Scouts adage, “Make new friends, but keep the old,” and you will be golden.
One final piece of advice is that it is extremely important to make sure you find the right medication and dosage for you, and that you are aware of the potential side effects.
For example, some carbidopa-levodopa medications can cause nausea if not taken as prescribed. One of the drugs I currently take can trigger impulsive behaviors, leading some users to compulsively shop, gamble, or overeat. Unfortunately, I had a gambling addiction and thought nothing of dropping $200 in a weekend.
“… [F]or better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” These words may reflect not only your wedding vows but also your relationship with Parkinson’s, at least for now.
There are good days and bad days, days when you laugh and days when you cry, days when you see a beautiful world and days when you ask, “Why me?”
But to quote actor and Parkinson’s awareness advocate Michael J. Fox, “Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation—it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.”
There is — I’m proof of that. Embrace the shake.
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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.