Marriage and Parkinson's Disease
Today, the day of my anniversary, I write this story to remember when I said, “I do” to my betrothed. So why should this anniversary be any different? It has, in fact, been 11 years since I mentioned to my neurologist that I was getting married to a wonderful woman from the state of Tennessee.
Discussing marriage with my neurologist
Normally, such things are made into movies you’d see on the Hallmark Channel or Lifetime. The funny thing is, when I mentioned it during one of my follow up appointments with my doctor, he was less than enthusiastic.
His whole demeanor changed and he got a serious look on his face. I’ll never forget the words that he spoke. “I don’t think two people with Parkinson’s disease should get married.”
Excuse me? Really? It took me a minute to process what he just said and it left me wondering, was this a professional opinion, or was he just being overly cautious? Therefore I will, in my opinion, answer the question as to whether two people living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) should get married.
Marriage is a personal choice
In the wise words of my wife, “you can’t help who you fall in love with.” I interpret that to mean that if cupid has you in his crosshairs; well let’s just assume that he seldom misses his intended target. So back to the question: Should people living with PD get married?
I don't know much about the science of passing on a chronic illness through the proverbial “gene pool.” It could lead to having children who are carriers of the PD gene, but it doesn’t mean they will be diagnosed. What I do understand is the dynamics of love and the euphoria of finding a soulmate with whom you desire to share a life. And what a life we share.
So when questioned about whether you should or shouldn’t, I believe it is a personal decision. One that has been considered carefully and discussed with one another and mutually agreed upon. My wife and I have continued to live out our vows for 11 years, and we know other couples who have similar relationships where one or both have been diagnosed with Parkinson's.
Caring for a spouse with Parkinson's
It’s hard for a healthy person to care for another living with Parkinson’s especially when the symptoms advance. Often, there needs to be an intervention, evidently from family or placement in a care facility. After all, PD is a progressive illness and there still isn’t a known cure to date.
We can stave off the onslaught of debilitating effects through exercise, nutrition, and proper treatments, but the sad news is there is no cure. The question becomes, as the disease progresses and both develop more advanced symptoms, what happens?
The one takeaway, if you don’t get anything else from this, is that no one case of Parkinson’s is the same. That being said, in the example of my wife and me, her symptoms are more complex and debilitating than mine, therefore, I take on the role of care partner
Utilize your strengths as a care partner
I rely on my strengths: dishes, laundry, shared cooking, etc. and vice versa. She utilizes her strengths: dealing with bill collectors, med refills, talking on the telephone, etc. We each bring different skill sets to our relationship and sometimes they overlap.
However crazy they may seem and uncoordinated they appear, it works for us. I encourage everyone living with PD or caring for someone with PD to communicate their needs, yes, but also things that you are able to do yourself.
Can people living with Parkinson’s get married? Working together as a team works for us and it can work for you. Cupid was right on target.
Happy Anniversary to my life partner and soulmate!
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