Saturday, August 09, 2008
Where authors and readers come together!
Making Lemonade ... Parkinson's Really 'Sux', Doesn't It?
You know how it is ... right?
Suppose you have this medical "issue" ... it can be any number of conditions. In my case, it is
early onset Parkinson's Disease that I have dubbed "fpd" ('friggin’ Parkinson's Disease) which I
contracted at the tender age of forty five. Funny how I mistook my first symptom, a slight
tremor in my left hand, for a weight-lifting injury. To the best of my knowledge, one cannot
suffer hand tremors from weight-lifting mishaps.
Nine years later, the tremor has evolved, progressed- as it were- to the point at which I have
(among other symptoms) chronic soreness in both forearms, soreness in my left shoulder (which
makes sleeping on my left side difficult and painful), partial but significant loss of fine digital skills
in both hands with the result that grasping things and letting them go become problematic.
Now there is a really interesting problem. Everyone understands what it is to grasp hold of
something. I mean we do it every day- perhaps hundreds of times: our keys, our clothes, books,
pens, pencils, laptops. We pick them up, we don't think about it. We don't have to. But what if the
act of letting go of an object becomes a problem? Sounds strange to you, I'm sure. Okay, are you
ready? Put the cup down, let go of the pen. Well, come on! Put it down, let it go!
What do you do when you know what to do, what has to be done, an action you've
never had to think about before but which now requires focus, time and care? When your
fingertips only reluctantly let go of the coffee cup, one at a time, you know you've got a problem.
I have often had to slide my hand up and off the can of pop rather than simply being able to let it
Did you ever think you'd be reading about such things? But that is what happens when we can
no longer take for granted what seem to be innate physical capabilities, such as grasping and
I was comparing Parkinson’s notes yesterday in shul with a friend of mine, Alan S. I enjoy Alan's
friendship. He is easy to talk to. Unhappily, he has a far worse case of “fpd” than I. When I look
at him, I can’t help but compare our respective symptoms. As selfish as it may seem or sound, I
thank God I have only what I do. I find that when my symptoms, especially the stuttering, do
erupt, I don’t suffer the embarrassment with Alan I feel when chatting with others. It’s a variant
of that old “misery loves company” thing, I suppose.
"So you say that amantadine doesn’t work for you?" I asked.
"No way. In fact when I took it I would hallucinate, all sorts of weird stuff. Ants where there
were no ants, people across from me making the wildest facial contortions. As a matter of fact, I
was the one making wild facial contortions, not them. There was this guy on the train one time
who saw me having a reaction to one of my meds. He asked me if I was alright. What do you say
in a situation like that?"
I nodded empathically.
"Yea," he continued on, " I was in court one day when the judge asked me if the ninth of October
would be a good day to reschedule a hearing. I checked my appointment book and realized that
the ninth was Rosh Hashana.“No, Judge. That happens to be a Jewish holiday.”
"Oh ok, what about the 19th?"
Hmm, uh oh …nope. Not good for me, Your Honor.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“You’re kidding, right? Oh my God!” I interjected.
“Not at all, but I became really confused when I had to explain why the next few days were not
good for me either because of Succos. I got all snarled up in the pages. What a mess!"
"Yea, I know what you mean ... the worst part of this for me has been its effect on my speech. I
answer with lots of ‘uh huhs’,’ okays’, and nod my head sympathetically. I just dont "wanna" get
caught up in the whole stuttering thing. This is where my writing comes in. I can write it much
better than I can say it.”
Alan nods back clumsily. He is having a reaction to his meds. Unlike the Samaritan on the
train, I knew he was all right. It’s just hard to look at. Having "fpd" has been a double-edged
sword, both a curse and a blessing. My approach has been to try to teach myself to think and
believe that I have “fpd” for a specific reason. Mind you, I am not referring to what has
happened in my brain, causing it to produce less dopamine. The issue for me lies in the spiritual
The "Aibishter" sends afflictions to challenge us. They are supposed to empower. While true not
all people will be equally successful in meeting and overcoming these challenges, each of us so
afflicted must strive to do as much as he can, to accomplish his very best.
So ... how well can you make lemonade from lemons?
My sincere hope is that you never need to find out, but should you, just remember these few
Slice it. Yes, of course I mean the lemon.
Add ice to a pitcher.
Throw in the lemon slices.
Fill pitcher with water.
Add lots of sugar.
Stir with spoon.
Alan D. Busch