Finding humor in growing older with young-onset Parkinson’s
Laughter can be medicine while aging with Parkinson's
Welcome to year 10 of my life with Parkinson’s disease. The cure I’d expected hasn’t been found yet, so my journey continues. While there are times of contentment and sadness, there is also joy and laughter as I find humor in the irony of growing older as someone with young-onset Parkinson’s disease.
A person is considered to have young-onset Parkinson’s when they are diagnosed before the age of 50. I received this honor at 45, and my years with disease now represent a significant portion of my lifetime.
I beat the odds. According to Parkinson’s News Today, an estimated 4% of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before age 50, and men are 1.5 times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women. I win in both categories.
The prestigious distinction of young-onset Parkinson’s is based on your age at symptom onset, not your current age. It’s like I’m drinking from the Parkinson’s fountain of youth, knowing I’ll always be young-onset.
My body didn’t get the ‘Forever Young’ memo
As I get older, my best defenses are exercise and a positive attitude. But despite the proverbial fountain of youth, parts of me are unaware that I have the honor of being “forever young-onset.” There are days when my body says, “Not today!” Rigidity is in charge and stays with me longer than I expect, causing me to move slower and get a later start.
The late start is the first domino, and the next is anxiety overdrive. Rather than endure a series of crashing dominoes, I approach my day in 10-minute increments. Focusing on one increment at a time and setting attainable goals are coping skills I learned through cognitive behavioral therapy.
Let’s add hormones and menopause to this comedic calamity. In a previous column, I discussed the challenges that women with Parkinson’s face while navigating menopause. Menopause seems to give our hormones a mind of their own. For me, the battle of kicking off my covers during a hormonal hot flash followed by Parkinson’s-related insomnia is won with laughter. It’s been said that if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry — so I choose to laugh.
Ultimately, time marches on and we get older. However, we also get wiser and can better appreciate the humor and irony in many aspects of life. Parkinson’s is only one of them.
Laughter is healthy for anyone at any age. In 2021, fellow Parkinson’s News Today columnist Samantha Felder shared the health benefits of laughter, arguing that sometimes it can be the best medicine. An article published on the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s website also notes that laughter yoga can help relieve some nonmotor symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and apathy.
So I encourage you to grab your care partner, check out some laughter yoga videos from the Parkinson’s Foundation, find humor in every day, and stay “Forever Young.”
As the popular saying goes, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”
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.
Since I was diagnosed at 63 there have been several memos that my body has not received 1) Exercising Will keep me young 2) stretching will help me maintain flexibility 3) writing will help me maintain my mental sharpness and on and on. I have tried my best to do the things that will help me stay ahead of the “Beast”. Now at 66 I realize we have got to stay positive. So many of the truisms are only suggestions. Your work Lori is an example to so many. Keep it up even through tougher times. Blessings, Mike
example of your tenacity that affects so many. Keep up the good work. ‘Rock On’ Blessings, Mike
Thank you, Mike! It's been a long time since I have been told to "Rock On." That made me smile and I intend to and challenge you to do the same! Keep moving..rest but never quit.
I found your article inspirational and had me laughing as well Lori. My husband was DX when he was 36, in 1996. We are both now 60 and his progression has been slow, but lots of side effects that are slowly getting worse. Exercise definitely helps him feel alot better afterwards. I'm really interested in the Rock Boxing.... can you tell me more about it please. We are in Europe, and I am struggling to find anywhere that does it.
Visit their website https://rocksteadyboxing.org/
Also look for virtual options - if you want more info on that and online YOPD support groups, let me know.