A funny thing happened on the way to my life!

I had struggled, as I imagine most people do in the sales of insurance. I joined a company that specialized in brokerage. We provided the expertise and the property/casualty agent provided the client. That statement over simplifies the process. Getting from point A to point B is quite a ride. I was lucky, very lucky. I was there at a time when the agencies I was assigned to were willing and able to provide the clientele for me to lend my expertise to their clients.

I loved my job

I will not bore you with the details of my success. In 1986 I led the nation in commission paid to agencies. Many people congratulated me for my success. I was hearing I was a flash in the pan. In 1987 I did it again, I led the company in sales. I was offered the opportunity to interview for the position of Life Sales Office Manager (LSOM) in the Denver Life Sales Office (LSO). The Denver office encompassed 5 states. It had two additional offices. One in Salt Lake City, Utah and Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was offered the job of LSOM. I spent as much time up in the air as I did on the ground. Or it seemed that way. I loved my job. I absolutely did. It was challenging, exciting, and extremely lucrative. I made more money than I thought possible. I was finally doing what I wanted to do. I was able to train people and give them the same opportunity to sell insurance. We dealt with the "esoteric" marketplace of estate and business planning. That was not to say we overlooked the individual sale of insurance. We did it all!

We moved our family from Coatesville, PA to Aurora, CO in July 1988. My self imposed work schedule was to be in bed by 11:00. I would get up at 4:00, walk my dog for an hour. Shower and be in the office by 6 to 6:30. I would work until 6:30 to 7:00. I was told by a consultant that "I worked too hard". He was a former VP working beyond retirement. He strongly suggested that I back off giving the appearance that I worked the hours I did. He said you can not create a bunch of junior Joe Snyder's. Stop wearing three piece suits. Dress down and just be yourself. I took this advice to heart. When he came back in 6 months. He complimented me for the changes I had made. He told me he looked for big things in my future.

Major life changes

Life was good, great, wonderful. We were making more money than I ever dreamed we would. We had the money and the lifestyle we had always dreamed of. Our oldest son was in PITT. Our 2nd child was acclimating herself to her new surroundings. Our youngest son was having the time of his life running a 4 wheeler around the property. You never realize how good you have it...until it is over.

I continued to work at the same pace I did before. I did not give the appearance of working the hours I did. I hired and fired as was the norm. I had 15 sales reps and three offices that supported them. I started to feel a lot of self-doubt. I was able to put it on a shelf. Where I didn't have to deal with it. It became worse. I started to question everything about myself. I consciously worked harder, in my attempt to have no time to give to my feelings. My next oldest brother, Tom, had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I really had no idea what PD was all about. No idea at all.

From 1993 to 1997 I made some major changes to my life. I separated from my wife of 27 years. I bought another house. I started drinking. My right hand was not working and I dragged my left leg at times. My offices were producing record numbers. In retrospect I could have gone on for a long time, if I did not want to know what the heck was wrong with me. I feel the item that brought me to my senses, I called my wife. I was intoxicated at the time. I must have called her 12 times. She called the police and reported harassment. To make a long story bearable, the District Attorney required me to go to Rehab. The stay was for 28 days. I could have fought it, but I didn't. I just took it. I did not realize what was about to happen to my life, my career and my marriage.

Finally got a diagnosis

In October 1997 I went to see a neurologist who specialized in movement disorders. He gave me half of a Sinemet. It acted like a miracle drug. I FINALLY HAD A DIAGNOSIS, I had Parkinson's disease. I had no idea what that meant. I was soon to find out. I am not a man that gives up on anything important. I have been a lot of things. I was a competitive swimmer, a soccer player, martial artist. I built a variety of homes and added on to a variety of others. I ran a triathlon in my late 30's, and finished in the first 10 in swimming. The bottom 10 in running. And was middle of the pack in biking. There were 700 people in the overall race. I love to play a guitar, only an acoustic. It's a Collings, and it sounds beautiful. I can't sing any more. I fly fish and bait fish. I've skied black diamonds. I've had canoes and kayaks. I have done a lot with my physical prowess. I have climbed a 14er. I built a swimming pool in my house in Westcliffe. It was in-ground and had a building built overtop of it. I loved my pool.

Nothing has been more significant to my life than the realization that I have PD, nothing. It isn't that you just have PD, it is how it affects your life and everyone else's life that touches yours. You can't explain how significantly your life changes. It has taken me a long time to come to certain realizations. PD can be very negative. Extremely negative, if you let it. I have been one that has chosen the positive side of the disease. If there is one!

I wrote down 17 items that I liked to do. That was 22 years ago. I have gradually checked the items off as I came to the realization that I couldn't do them anymore. All 17 can not be done, by me.

I was a scuba instructor in 1988. I had six students in 30' of water. We were doing emergency swimming ascents. I went to the first student grabbed his buoyancy compensator and gave the signal, I am out of air and going up. Half the way up I felt like the top of my head came off. I got him to the surface and passed him off to a dive master. I was in the water laying on my back yelling "diver down". No one would come in the water for me. I guess they thought it was a training exercise. I made eye contact with a diver from our group. He pulled me out of the water tanks and all, a minute before my face fell. They air evacuated me to a hospital in New Mexico.

I had had a hemorrhagic stroke. It was the size of a goose egg on the right side of the brain. Since then these are the trips to a hospital and diagnosis of diseases:

  • 03/88 - hemorrhagic Stroke
  • 10/97 - Diagnosis of PD
  • 11/02 - DBS right side
  • 04/03 - DBS left side
  • 06/07 - COPD
  • 07/09 - Orthostatic Hypotension
  • 07/09 - Replacement of batteries
  • 11/18 - DBS replaced
  • 11/18 - Myocardial Infarction

Happy to be alive

At this point I can not walk, talk, or see things clearly. I am getting an augmentative speech device next week. I will finally have a voice!! I am happy to be alive. I will not end up being a burden to my family. I am very happy to say I am together with my 1st wife.

A word or two. Live your life to the fullest, as best you can. Give your wife, children, friends, relatives a hug. They are the lifeline to your future.

-Just Joe

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The ParkinsonsDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Have you taken our In America survey yet?