Parkinson’s Has Made My Dad Even More of an Empathetic Listener

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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“It looks like I’m getting surgery next month,” I texted my dad one morning. I’ve been dealing with a mystery pain in my foot for nearly a year. Every time I run or rock climb, I end up with a burning sensation in my toe. A recent MRI revealed that I’d torn my plantar plate.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Dad responded.

Dad is no stranger to hospitals. Since his early 30s, he’s basically been paying rent at a number of them, carving out a space to investigate his latest symptoms. He’s spent plenty of sleepless nights listening to the bustle of the ward, wishing that someone would bring him something edible after a few days of applesauce and Jell-O. I know that he’ll be a helpful resource for me while I’m navigating my own medical mysteries.

“Please be careful, Mary Beth. And would you let me and your mom know if there’s anything we can do to help?”

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We’re separated by thousands of miles, which is often a struggle for both of us — for me because Dad has Parkinson’s disease, and for him because I’m his child, and everybody knows that once you’re someone’s child, you’re always someone’s child. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been a legal adult for many years. But this isn’t the first time the distance has caused us pain, and I doubt it’ll be the last.

A few days after his initial message, Dad sent me a series of thoughts: “Is your surgeon reputable? Did your primary care physician refer you to him? Have you done a Google search to see what people have to say about him?”

He is right to be concerned. He was the victim of a malpractice incident earlier in his life, and he wants better for me. A simple flick of a blade can cause a lifetime of repercussions. And with Parkinson’s and ulcerative colitis, Dad has enough to worry about. Why would he want to add me to the list?

It never ceases to amaze me that he still finds enough energy to fight for my siblings and me. Whether it’s a big event in our lives or some type of loss, he’s always there, doing what he can to keep the odds flipped in our favor. He struggles every day, but he still wants to be there for us.

I’m not sure how I got so lucky. And I hope that Dad finds the same kind of support awaiting him when he faces some other type of challenge in his life. Parkinson’s certainly causes plenty of them. But I think the disease has softened him to empathy in a way that nothing else has.

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.


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