Two Important Life Lessons I Learned From Parkinson’s Disease

How a father's illness changed columnist Mary Beth Skylis' perspective

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by Mary Beth Skylis |

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When my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013, I didn’t expect the disease to transform my worldview. But it did.

Learning about the disease instilled a sense of fear and sadness in me. At first, I saw only the horror that Parkinson’s creates. How could a disease consume people this way?

But as I kept learning and discovered there were ways Dad could manage it, I realized Parkinson’s can provide insight into the human experience. The disease comprises both yin and yang. It has the ability to rob us of the people we love most, but it also shows us what’s most important in life.

Following are two of the greatest lessons Parkinson’s has taught me over the years.

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We’re not immortal

One thing that drives me crazy about American culture is the constant pressure to produce and consume. So many of us desire material goods that probably won’t mean anything at the end of our life. We may prioritize things over experiences and people. But Parkinson’s changed that for me.

When Dad was diagnosed, I was suddenly faced with not only his mortality, but my own. In 2020, the average life expectancy for the U.S. population was 77 years — almost five years more than the global life expectancy. Statistically, that means my life is nearly half over, and I may have only a decade left with my dad. Now that I realize this, I’m much more likely to give up a holiday shift if it means spending time with the people I love.

None of us truly knows how long we have to live, but Parkinson’s helped me understand that I want to live consciously. Instead of spending all of my time producing and consuming material goods, I want to change my habits to maximize the time I have with my dad. Thanks to Parkinson’s, I recognize that we each only occupy a short blip in space and time.

Knowledge is powerful

I’ve always been a bookworm. So when Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I started reading as much as I could about his potential experience. I didn’t expect books to contain secret cures, but I thought that learning more about Parkinson’s disease might help us make more informed choices about how to manage it.

Thanks to Parkinson’s, Dad and I have learned about the power of movement and music. And we both feel more empowered because of what we’ve learned.

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.


Alan MacKenzie avatar

Alan MacKenzie

In your latest column, Mary Beth, you wrote "Dad and I have learned about the power of movement and music". Can you share more about these specific learnings with your readership, please?

Sein Win avatar

Sein Win

How long his life to continue with Parkinson diseases.


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