Facing Other Illnesses with Parkinson's

Do you find it difficult to differentiate between just a "bad day" and "being ill" now that you have Parkinson’s disease (PD)? Posy spent yesterday in bed, exhausted, joints aching, throat a bit sore, coughing here and there, sleeping, and then sleeping some more.

She had a "busy" few weeks, overstepping her schedule. She knows she should not pursue more than one manageable event in a day since her PD diagnosis, and she should take rest days. But the past few months were happily full of family get-togethers.

Once upon a time, Posy would have tolerated this state of affairs, assuming that in a few days, she would recover. But now, a little worry creeps in. In the end, having tested negative for COVID, she decided that either she is moving on to the next stage of her Parkinson’s, or that the disease is exacerbating every pain and unpleasant symptom in her body.

Risk of other conditions

Posy is about to have a procedure under general anesthesia. At this point, this is just a biopsy. The NHS treats any possible symptoms of cancer, however mild, as an emergency and a patient must be treated in under 2 weeks. This is fantastic, but it brings with it a certain amount of fear, plus a lot of traveling.

On the one hand, Posy is dismissing the idea of being diagnosed with cancer as unrealistic, as Parkinson’s has already claimed her. Surely, she is now immune to any other diseases. On the other: Help! How on earth does anyone cope with cancer treatment on top of the daily struggle of PD? Or: Help! Maybe Parkinson’s actually makes us more susceptible to other diseases, such as cancer?

Care partner support

Some days, Posy feels she is bearing the cross of her Parkinson’s diagnosis with as much grace as anyone else. On darker days, she realizes the extent of her frailty. Although she tries to keep up with housework, playing the piano, conducting and composing music, and personal grooming, she would be a great deal more incapacitated were it not for help.

Not only has Posy vastly pared down her lifestyle and level of activity, but, more importantly, her husband has taken on many of her erstwhile duties and tasks. In effect, he has allowed Posy to relinquish all awkward tasks, from shopping, cooking and cutting her food into bite-size pieces, to driving.

Posy has not driven now for a few years, having had to relinquish her driver’s license. This was on account of answering honestly on her license renewal that her medications made her feel sleepy.

Are we more susceptible?

It is confusing. Is Parkinson's affecting every aspect of our life, health, and happiness? Does it cramp our style so completely that we can never function normally in any setting? Is Parkinson’s so powerful that it takes precedence over every other health issue? Is it so powerful that it prevents us from getting other diseases?

Maybe there is no connection between having a neurological disease and getting something else? Or does Parkinson's make us susceptible to every and any illness?

Accepting a diagnosis takes courage

The trouble is, being diagnosed with PD makes us realize we are not invincible. It forces us to face the possibility of our decline. In turn, this makes us question our mortality sooner than others might.

It takes tremendous courage to accept a diagnosis of Parkinson's. It is even more difficult to flourish and inspire in the aftermath, when symptoms become more obvious.

Posy wishes all of you the courage to go on, keep smiling and find hope in every moment of every day. Parkinson's is strong, but don't let it win.

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