Looking at Life on the Bright Side, Even With Parkinson’s Disease
In her debut column, Jamie Askari shares a tale of diagnosis and positive spirit
When I was a college student, my eyes were opened to the world of Parkinson’s disease when our beloved Michael J. Fox was diagnosed in 1991. At only 29 years old, he was barely even an adult and in the heart of a lucrative acting career. He was America’s sweetheart, playing roles that made us feel like he was part of our families.
How could something like Parkinson’s happen to such a young, vibrant man?
Fast forward to my young family of five living in a large Midwestern city. Traditional roles applied in our family: My husband, Arman, was the breadwinner, having completed his medical training as an invasive critical care cardiologist, while I was a stay-at-home mother.
The signs of Parkinson’s came upon us slowly, as I noticed small things like how slowly Arman moved his arm when I asked him to turn up the heat in the car. He was a dedicated weightlifter and runner who noticed that his foot would often cramp up during long runs in our neighborhood. Slowness and stiffness were the first signs that seemed concerning, but we thought he was a healthy young man, so it couldn’t be anything serious.
When he came home from work one day, exhausted from pushing through a long day at the hospital while dealing with painfully stiff and tightening muscles, I was honest with him and said that I thought he was suffering from the same disease as Fox. As a physician, he doubted my diagnosis and hoped these unusual symptoms would eventually pass.
Time passed, but his symptoms did not; they slowly worsened daily.
The grueling schedule of an attending physician in the cardiac intensive care unit was like an unbearable weight resting on his shoulders. The long days performing diagnostic cardiac catheterizations became impossible due to the intention tremor that he was experiencing.
At this point, we knew that we needed some help. Asking for help can feel like you’re weak, but we soon realized that not asking for help in our situation was actually weak. We needed a diagnosis, and we needed support.
As you may have guessed, I was correct in my diagnosis of my dear husband; in 2009, doctors confirmed he had early-onset Parkinson’s disease. He was 38 years old.
Our world had been turned upside down as we tried to figure out our next steps. We had three young children, a hefty mortgage, and college to save for. How could we manage this? Should we tell our friends and family, or could we keep it private? Would Arman be fired? Would he be able to walk our children down the aisle at their weddings? How would this affect our children? What would happen to our marriage? How could we survive this?
As luck would have it, Arman is the most positive and level-headed person I know. If anyone could survive this, he definitely would.
His mom once asked him, “Why did this happen to you?”
He simply responded, “Because I’m strong enough to handle it.”
So we banned together, put smiles on our faces, and continued with our lives. Sure, Parkinson’s is tough, but we’re tougher!
We try to look at the cards that Parkinson’s has dealt us as a gift. For example, when Arman retired from his position as a cardiologist, it was a gift to our family to have him home with us; we would never have experienced this otherwise. Now that he cannot walk long distances, we love the gift of skipping the lines at the airport because he’s in a wheelchair. Accessible parking is also a perk, especially when the weather is cold, snowy, or rainy.
I have titled my column “The Bright Side” because that is our family philosophy. We always look for the good in all situations, and this attitude has kept us strong through tough and unpredictable times. So I hope to bring some brightness to my column and maybe a smile to your face. Thanks for reading!
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.