How Our Disease Keeps Pecking Away

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

by Sherri Woodbridge |

Share this article:

Share article via email

Sherri Journeying Through

Jean Mellano, a fellow contributor at Parkinson’s News Today, recently wrote a column about how this disease keeps taking bits and pieces of us — our abilities, our control of self — and leaves less and less of us day by day.

In a reply to a comment I left about her column, Jean said: “I do find it a huge challenge that everyone thinks I am fine, but they have no idea how much this disease chips away at us.” 

For some reason, a woodpecker came to mind. 

I have several bird feeders in my backyard, one of which attracts the downy woodpecker, the acorn woodpecker, and the northern flicker.

One of the acorn woodpeckers was also attracted to my neighbor’s tool shed and spent a good amount of time there last summer doing a lot of damage to the siding. The damage didn’t all happen in a day. It took several weeks. It wasn’t noticeable for a while, but when I finally figured out where the constant “hammering” was coming from, the damage was quite obvious. 

The chipping away happens little by little. 

At first, it isn’t too obvious. But before you know it, it almost looks as if a dog has been gnawing on the wood. Just outside my back fence stands a telephone pole. Although, with the lack of telephones today, these tall, cylinder poles are most likely referred to as utility poles. The woodpeckers aren’t picky as to whether we call them utility or telephone poles. They just enjoy drilling holes into them. This particular pole has hundreds of holes stuffed with acorns all the way to the top. Those woodpeckers just keep pecking away at those poles, and they’ll keep at it until the utility company has to replace them.

Little by little, day by day, the Parkinson’s woodpecker pecks at us, wearing us down in many different ways. It can take our smiles, our voices, and our balance. It takes our independence. It renders us feeling useless and without purpose, feeling as if our lives no longer have meaning.

But is that who we are — people with a disease, therefore without purpose or meaning? No.

Acorn woodpeckers. (Photo by Sherri Woodbridge)

As long as we have breath, we have a purpose.

As long as we can at least smile, our life has meaning. How often has a stranger offered you a smile and it changed your entire day?

You might say that you can’t smile because you have a stone or masked face. I challenge you that yes, you can smile. I have the same symptom (masked-stone face), but I pray for my smile to show through and I intentionally practice smiling throughout the day. 

As long as you can breathe, you can smile, even if it’s forced. And as long as you can smile, you can change someone’s day for the better. If you can do that, your life has purpose and meaning, no matter how much this disease keeps pecking away at you.


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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Trish Feret avatar

Trish Feret

I’m often scared I’m on medicines that work just nervous about the situation. Sometimes just feel helpless

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Trish - Hang in there. None of knows what the next day will bring so we may as well enjoy today. It’s a positive note that your medications are working for you. When you’re feeling helpless, reach out to somebody. Drop me a note - I’ll try to cheer you up!

Gavin Mogan avatar

Gavin Mogan

Happiness often doesn’t feel like a choice because we outsource it to others’ approval, or understanding, or to some purpose. I still cede control, but not to the world anymore. Happiness, peace naturally followed.

Denise Gibson avatar

Denise Gibson

Thank you for your positive messages. I always look forward to reading your posts. They are always so encouraging. Keep it up!

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Denise - Thank you so much for your comment! I appreciate it!

Hazel avatar


Dear Sherri, Love reading your articles. Found your Consultant's comment re going to the loo!!!! A hoot , And your silent response. I share your same determination and sense of humour. Like you, Gardening is a passion of mine, cooking too, knitting is almost on the back burner at the moment, golf is off and so is 'line dancing'. I am always on 'catch up time' when medication kicks in.
Recently I was in OFF' mode, after explaining as simply as I was able at the time.With a fleeting look of sympathy saying that that they thought P was only shaking of limbs, they heard the music start up, ' well it could be worse' they uttered before rushing back on the dance floor.!!
I liken P. to a creature with tentacles, that wrap around me, squeezing while
searching throughout my body wreaking havoc without any pity. Medication fighting it, unfortunately it can become overwhelmed, no rhyme or reason, no two days
the same.
My sense of smell like yours has gone, a bonus while sitting on the 'throne'.
My taste buds have also given up, oddly enough I can taste goats cheese. ??
Thankfully I still have a smile and haven't lost my optimism, P tries its hardest to take both. I admit to having to let off steam by having a good cry, it seems to wash away pent up emotions.
The oddest phenomena is that from time to time, I can have short periods of returning to the normal me, P having left me . I return to being the 'Billy whizz' I was previously. Thankfully with help from a loving family and friends, GP, specialist Nurses I manage to keep making my own decisions but admit now that restrictions are beginning to loom as insidiously the tentacles creep further in.
So pleased that you find the time to enlighten us with how you view life, warts and all.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Hazel - thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. We do have a lot in common and glad we have a sense of humor - so importnat! And, I loved your picture of PD being like a creature with tentacles! How descriptive! Hange in there! We still have lots of life to live, even if covered in warts!

Dean Crandall avatar

Dean Crandall

My wife was just diagnosed as having Parkinson's, so we are new at this. Retirees, in our early 70's, living in western Colorado. I just found this newsletter searching for 'stuff' about Parkinson's. I loved reading you column. Thanks for the positive messages from your commenters. we are not alone. Cheers.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.

Your Parkinson’s Community

Woman laying down illustration

Visit the Parkinson’s News Today forums to connect with others in the Parkinson’s community.

View Forums