Parkinson's is Snatching My Body Piece by Piece

Last updated: January 2023

I dreamt last night that I was losing my abilities - one piece of my body at a time. Like the old joke, "How do you eat a whole elephant? One bite at a time." My Parkinson’s disease (PD) is slowly progressing.

Weakness

Deftly, it sneaked up on me to steal some of my body's abilities. At first, it invaded my body without my consciousness knowing what was happening. It all started when I parked my car at work. I was unable to lift my attaché case out of the trunk of my car. I paid it no mind thinking that I must be tired. Then, this was happening more frequently. I still did not think twice about it, but I thought I should exercise more.

Frequent falls

The next body invasion was at my job at a large hospital complex. I was walking down the hall, wearing approved hospital scrubs and rubber clogs, when I quickly slipped and fell. The medical staff walking by came over to help me. I was very embarrassed, but I could not get up by myself. They picked me up. I brushed myself off and continued on my way. "Those darn rubber clogs," I said to myself. There was nothing on the floor that I would have tripped over. I thought, well I am just a klutz!

A couple of weeks later, I fell again at work. But this time, my head was bleeding, as well. A group of doctors picked me up, put me in a wheelchair, and whisked me away into the emergency room. They stitched me up, and again I was on my way. I still blamed the rubber clogs!

Parkinson's was progressing

Still in denial, I did not link these 3 events together! Sneakily, Parkinson’s disease continued to advance forward, one bite at a time, taking its time ... bite by bite, foraging on my muscles. Then it started to advance to other areas of my body. I started walking with a shuffling gait pattern and my muscles started to get weaker. Next, my balance was getting more pronounced, and I started to fall. The frequency of falls increased.

When I felt that I needed assistance with eating, I purchased weighted utensils to make it easier. Soon after, I noticed that my beautiful script handwriting was getting smaller and smaller, with little space between words. This resulted in making my handwriting unintelligible to read. Several weeks later, I developed hand tremors with associated hand weakness.

Impacting my memory and speech

During this time of body-part snatching, I began physical and occupational therapy to try and maintain control over my body’s changes and learn new ways to compensate so that I could function safely.

Then, I noticed that my memory was not as good as it was previously. Things at work, which I did without trouble, was causing me difficulty when I was trying to remember immediate, short-term memory and procedural abilities. I had to start using compensatory strategies to boost my memory skills.

At this time, my speech was becoming slower and softer, with a lower volume. It also became slightly unintelligible. I began working on my speech using the Parkinson’s Voice Project and the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment which I was familiar with since I am a speech pathologist.

Anxiety and depression

My family was trying to keep me performing at my prior level of functioning, but was unaware of the cognitive and physical changes that were slowly occurring due to the PD. I started feeling anxious and depressed due to my decreased functioning. I started to see a psychiatrist and counselor for help. By being proactive, I am able to function better with proper care and therapy.

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