How I Learned to Live Positively with Parkinson's Disease

At 73 years old, I was sitting in my den thinking how my closest relatives handled severe life-altering medical conditions. I have taken away many life lessons from how my family handled chronic illnesses. The first one that comes to mind was my grandfather, Bill.

Something went wrong during surgery

He went to his doctor and was given a diagnosis. His physician told him that he would need spinal surgery to correct his cervical spinal atrophy. So, my grandfather at 66 years of age, listened to his options and took the advice of his physician. My grandmother and I accompanied him to the hospital on the day of his surgery. He optimistically walked into the hospital and had the surgery.

Unfortunately, the optimism quickly faded when the doctor came into my grandfather’s room and told him that something went wrong during the surgery. During the delicate surgery, the scalpel he was using for the operation "slipped" and severed his spine! He told us that my grandfather would never walk again!

Life changing events

Subsequently, my mother lived for 35 years with crippling spinal stenosis and cervical spinal issues until she passed away. She was frightened at the thought of surgery due to what my grandfather experienced after his unsuccessful spinal surgery.

He had the surgery and could not walk for the rest of his life. He lived the remaining years in a skilled nursing facility. Hence, my mother was afraid to take a chance and did not elect to have spinal surgery.

Finding strength in adversity

However, both of them dealt with their "new" lives in similar ways. Both of them were brave. They did not let past issues consume them. They were never anxious or depressed and never complained.

I visited my grandfather often at the skilled nursing facility. Every time my grandfather and mother saw me and my children, they were always joyful. They never looked at their lives as being half-empty. This experience taught me to be strong in adversity. At first, I was saddened and shocked by what transpired. But my grandfather and mother chose to pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

Living with a positive attitude

They could have been depressed or had a "woe is me" attitude, but instead they chose to live with positive attitudes and were thankful for little things, like seeing family and watching the grandchildren grow up.

My grandfather told me that he had a choice every morning to either be sad or glad to be alive. They both chose to live life to the fullest and not to feel sorry for their situation. I was taught at an early age that complaining was counterproductive and served no useful purpose. Coming up with a positive alternative plan was more beneficial.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

They did not dwell in the past, instead they planned for the here and now. When dealing with lemons, make lemonade! That was the backbone of how I was taught to deal with my Parkinson’s disease. I cannot change my diagnosis or its symptoms. The only thing I can change is my attitude. I can live my current life to its fullest as well as follow my doctor's plan of care.

Thankful for my family members

Over and over, again and again, I witnessed my family member's positive focus on dealing with life’s challenges. I thank my mother and grandfather for their philosophical approach when dealing with life’s challenges. Observing their interactions and how they dealt with adversity helped me in dealing with my own Parkinson's disease.

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