Five Good Years Left?
Diagnosed at 40
My name is Jennifer, I am 45 years old, and I have Parkinson's disease.
About seven years ago, I noticed my left hand had lost some of its dexterity and my arm didn't swing when I walked. My primary care doctor sent me to see a neurologist. My diagnosis was a benign Essential Tremor.
As time passed, my symptoms continued to worsen. I developed a frozen shoulder, had it manipulated, went to lots of physical therapy, and when I was fully recovered, my arm still didn't swing. The orthopedic doctor's response when questioned was, "It is not from anything I did." Not exactly helpful, so I went to a different neurologist, who finally diagnosed me with Parkinson's Disease. His exact words were, "Well, you have five good years left." I was 40 years old, my boys were 9 and 11 - and I had 5 good years left?
I was so devastated, I fell into a fog of sadness and depression that lasted about one year. I constantly watched the clock tick away the few good years I had left. I developed coping mechanisms, such as only thinking 10 minutes ahead. Anything longer than that was too overwhelming. I had never been artistic before, but all of the sudden I could draw and paint. The doctor said it was the medicine, but I think it was a gift from God, because when I was painting, I wasn't thinking about Parkinson's. That, along with the support of my husband and friends, carried me through that first year.
Now, I'm happy most of the time, although I do still have pity parties every now and then. I was a teacher before having children, so I tried teaching preschool, but it was too taxing. I wrote and illustrated a children's book for a missionary friend who adopted a baby with a rare illness. We sold 900 books and donated the proceeds to the family to help pay medical bills. It was such a blessing to me to be able to forget about my own troubles and use my talents to help someone else. Would I trade my artistic talents for my former healthy body? Absolutely! But I am grateful for the gift and the ability to share it with others. It has been almost five years since that doctor made his prediction, and I can say without a doubt that he was wrong. With the help of family, friends and faith my future looks fairly bright. At least the next ten minutes are going to be great!