Everything Happens for the Best...
Diagnosed at 44
It was a day I will never forget.
The day I first laid eyes on Krista Brooks, MD.
Within minutes of us meeting, I knew.
My life would never be the same.
She knew before me.
She read it in my eyes.
She saw it in my facial expression.
She took my hand, and as it started to shake in hers, she said three words that changed my life forever, "You have Parkinson's."
The world stood still. Everything went to slow motion.
How old was I? I wasn't even sure at that moment, 43, 44.
Isn't Parkinson's an old person's illness?
But didn't Michael J. Fox get this at an early age? Wasn't that rare?
I staggered to the rest room. After splashing my face with cold water, I started to come back to my new reality.
Strangely, there is no test to determine if you have Parkinson's-- or PD -- other then doing an autopsy. Being that I am still alive, and that I intend to stay that way for a long, long time, I opted against the autopsy (not a tough decision). What you can do is start the medication and see if it works. Unfortunately, the medication worked.
The first challenge was to continue to function as if nothing had happened. I now had a horrible secret, one not of my own making.
What also comes with the territory is going through the emotional trauma of letting your loved ones know and dealing with their reaction while, at the same time, dealing with your own emotions. I was exhausted.
When I finally got around to talking to my mother. Her reaction surprised me. Of course, she expressed empathy, but then she said something that I will never forget, "Everything happens for a reason." Our family had always been fighters, but something was different.
She had said this phrase hundreds of times growing up, but something had changed, she used to say, "Everything happens for the best." Why the change? She said, "I can't imagine that you getting Parkinson's is for the best." My mother unknowingly had provided the motivation to move forward. Is it possible to prove that it was for the best?
There was an event coming up in DC called The World Parkinson's Congress. My parents drove up to sit with me through a bunch of hyper-technical lectures - talk about love. Although you can't stop the progression, you may be able to slow it. Wow, that was what I was hoping to hear (becoming a medical researcher was not an option, too late to go back to school, too old to put in 12 more years).
The to-do list will not surprise you: Exercise; eat right; reduce stress; laugh a lot; and lots of affection (not really, but can't hurt). By the way, eating right includes blueberries, strawberries, and (no kidding) red wine and dark chocolate. Say no more, sign me up.
This diagnosis also prompted me to do something different with my life than being the top attorney for a company. Despite much concern,
I started teaching several undergraduate classes at the University of Louisville and opened my own inspirational speaking & consulting business (TheInspiringEsquire.com).
Just as there is much that can be done to proactively prevent, or at least slow, the progression of Parkinson's, I have dedicated my energy and passion to eliminate workplace harassment, reduce workplace injuries, teach supervisory skills based upon appreciation and respect, enhance success skills, and speak on Parkinson's (http://www.ProactivePreventionCulture.com)
Spreading the message of living life to the fullest after a life-changing event like Parkinson's takes many forms and sometimes involves early wake-up calls. For me, my post recent experience was on the TV show Sunday Sunrise where I had to arrive at the studio at 5am! Here is the clip: http://theinspiringesquire.com/2010/06/17/john-baumann-radio-talk-show-host/
My focus in all these presentations is to elevate awareness and understanding by providing instructive real life examples, engaging imagery and appropriate humor.
I am also The Inspiring Esquire, an Internet Talk Show Host, Mondays at 4pm on http://www. VoiceAmericaBusiness.com
This is where I am - enjoying life, enjoying work.
Oh yeah, did I mention that I have Parkinson's and I guess I'm proud of it. You can even call me a Proud Person with Parkinson's.
And my mother now believes that this is for the "best."