Thursday, December 13, 2007

Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease

I hope this post finds everyone enjoying the holiday season. My husband and I were fortunate to spend Thanksgiving with my sister and her family in Arizona. In addition we were able to visit with my dad and his wife in Tucson, so Thanksgiving turned out to be a great holiday for us.

Last week, after several years of dealing with the unknown, I finally received the answers that I have been searching for. During my last visit with my Movement Disorder Specialist, she stated that her opinion is that I do not have one of the PD-Plus conditions. Her opinion is that I do have idiopathic Parkinson’s Disease. Due to the lack of any significant tremor, it appears that I have the akinetic-rigid form of PD, rather than the tremor dominant form.

I am certain that many people would find this diagnosis to be devastating. As I listened to her diagnosis, I felt as if I were receiving a blessing. Although Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic and progressive disease, the disease itself does not reduce life expectancy. Had I been diagnosed with one of the PD-Plus conditions, my life expectancy could have been reduced significantly. Therefore, this diagnosis is a blessing in my life.

During my journey through the diagnosis process, I have met many others who have blessed my life. Many of those have had a diagnosis for several years, while others were struggling for a diagnosis as I had to. Too many of the people I have met were young people who have been told that they are “too young” for Parkinson’s Disease. Regardless, this diagnosis and the journey to get here, has brought wonderful people into my life. Additionally, now that I know that I have Parkinson’s Disease, this blog becomes all that more important. I hold this belief, because it should not have been as difficult to deal with the medical community as it was, in order to finally receive my diagnosis.

While visiting with my family in Arizona for Thanksgiving I was blessed to be able to personally meet one of my new internet PD friends for the first time. She is also a young person who has been having a difficult time trying to get a firm diagnosis from the medical community. It was wonderful to be able to finally meet this person after the many internet and telephone conversations we have shared.

More recently I was contacted through this blog by a young woman known as Indymama. She has a very unique story that I believe that young onset patients may benefit from. This young lady has a strong family history of Parkinson’s Disease, and she began exhibiting symptoms at the young age of eighteen. Despite her strong family history with this disease, she has been having many difficulties getting the medical community to acknowledge that she could potentially be dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. Like many others, she has been told that she is too young.

Indymama has graciously added a link to my blog on her site. I went to her blogsite and was amazed to read about her history and what she is currently dealing with. Her site is very informative and motivational. With her permission I am adding a link to her blog. It can be found in the “Resources for PD, PD-Plus, & Other Movement Disorders” section titled, “Indymama’s Young Parkinson’s Journey”. I believe you will be very blessed by visiting her site.

Before I close, I want to wish everyone a safe and wonderful Christmas, just in case I do not get a chance to post again before then. As we all know this is a very busy time for most of us each year. To all my new friends that have come into my life, I will continue to keep you in my prayers. You all know who you are, and each one of you have touched my life in ways that I never thought possible. Many blessings to all.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Man's Best Friend

It has been some time since I have posted, and I do apologize. As I mentioned in my November personal medical journal post, I have been making some changes with my medications. These changes have had beneficial effects, but have also caused some extreme fatigue. I am slowly working my way through the various changes, and I am hoping to post more often.

Through the many years of internet research, I have often read that chronically ill people can benefit from having a pet. I am primarily referring to a dog, otherwise known as man’s best friend. On November the 10th I woke up, and without any real depth prior thought, I headed to one of the local animal shelters.

My husband had expressed concern in the past that having a dog might cause more harm than good. His greatest concern was that I could trip over a small animal and fall, since my balance is not very good. Up until that trip to the animal shelter, we had agreed that a dog was not in my best interest. In fact, my husband did not know that I was going to the animal shelter until I called him from there later that afternoon.

Several dogs were ready for “adoption” that day. Essentially, these dogs already had their shots and had been spayed or neutered. I looked at those dogs first, and I even took one that caught my attention for a short walk. Unfortunately, the little guy would have been more than I could have handled. He did not walk well on a leash, showed little interest in me, and spent the majority of the walk marking his territory.

I then began looking at the dogs that were available for adoption, but could not be released until they were spayed or neutered. As I walked past each kennel, most of the dogs were barking, jumping around, and just trying to get my attention. When I reached one particular kennel, there was a small dog that did not do any of these things. She was just quietly lying in the kennel with the saddest brown eyes I had ever seen. I almost immediately knew that this little dog was supposed to be mine.

It took the staff member a few minutes to get her on a leash, so that I could take her for a walk. She was very timid, and it was evident that she had not been treated well in the past. Within about five minutes, she broke out of her shell, and all she wanted was to be held and pet. She walked on the leash like an old pro, constantly looking up as if to check to see if I was still there. I knew this dog was meant for me.

It was about this same time that I called my husband and told him where I was. I spent the next thirty minutes telling him about this dog and how well behaved and calm she was. I told him that I knew in my heart that this dog was the reason I had been lead to the animal shelter that day. He reluctantly gave his blessing for me to let the shelter know that I was interested in adopting her.

After filling out the required paperwork and paying the fee, essentially this little dog belonged to me. Unfortunately, the animal shelter workers said that I could not take her home until she was spayed, but they told me that I could visit her as often as I wanted. I stayed at the shelter for another thirty minutes, until they closed, and I reluctantly went home. The shelter workers informed me that it would be about two weeks before I could bring her home.

Therefore, I visited with her at the shelter on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Thursday, my mom and aunt went with me to the shelter to meet her. Like me, they instantly fell in love with her. As we were getting ready to leave the shelter, one of the workers said she wanted to check the dog, realizing that she had not been checked to see if she had already been spayed, prior to arriving at the shelter. To my surprise, the worker stated that she had absolutely been previously spayed, and she could leave with us that day. I am not sure whether the dog or I was happier about this turn of events. Regardless, on November the 15th she was able to come home with me.

I had no trouble deciding on a name for this little dog. The first time I saw her she looked so sad and pitiful, that she reminded me of a doll that I have that had belonged to my grandma, who died many years ago. This doll’s actual name when sold back in 1965 was “Little Miss No Name”. When my mom graduated from high school, she had bought it for my grandma. My grandma, who I was very close to, cherished that doll when she was alive. I remember how much I loved the doll as a little girl, and my grandma would tell me that I could look at her, but I could not touch her. I used to ask her why the doll was so sad and wore a dress made of burlap. She said that she was sad because her mom had died in a fire when she was eight years old, and she wore a burlap dress because she was very poor. I believe that this doll represented how my grandma felt growing up poor and after her mother died in a fire when she was eight years old. The last time I saw my grandma before she died, she had promised me that I could have “Little Miss No Name” after she passed away. Six months later, “Little Miss No Name” became mine.

I knew that “Little Miss No Name” was much too long for a name, so I named my new four-legged friend Maryjane. Maryjane was my grandma’s name. I was a little worried that some of the family would not understand why I chose the name, but most of them did. Although my mother said that had I named a “cat” Maryjane, my grandma would have turned over in her grave, because she had hated cats with a passion. Therefore, Maryjane is the name of my new little friend.

Little Maryjane has settled in very nicely. The veterinarian gave her a clean bill of health and stated that she was only about one year old. Her age surprised me, because she behaves like a much older dog. Although she will play occasionally, her sole purpose in life seems to be getting as much love as she can. She enjoys sitting in the sun while I am out in the garden, and she enjoys sitting on my lap for hours having her tummy rubbed. She enjoys car rides and knows to do her “business” outside. She has even bonded with my husband and enjoys cuddle time in bed with us each night, before he puts her in her own bed to sleep.

Although this topic does not have much to do with Parkinson’s Disease, PD-Plus, or dealing with the medical community, it does have much to do with well-being. Since Maryjane came into my life, she has played a large role in reducing stress and providing companionship. She has slipped so perfectly into our lives that I can only presume that she was the reason I felt lead to the animal shelter that Saturday afternoon. Her personality and behavior matches well with the limitations that this disease has placed on my life. Someone mentioned to me that she was the perfect dog for me. I may have rescued her from the shelter, but she has added benefits to my health that I never thought possible.

Our local animal shelter is a wonderful place. I found the workers to be helpful and friendly to deal with. Additionally, when a person adopts a pet, the adoption includes a bad of dog food, all of the first year’s required shots, and a certificate for a free veterinarian visit to insure that the animal is in good health. I believe that many of the animals at the shelters are not there because they are bad animals. I do believe that many are there because of circumstances caused by humans. I would now highly advocate that anyone seeking a four-legged companion to first check out the local animal shelters. There are so many unwanted, well-behaved animals who only need a good home in order to thrive.

To complete this little story, I am including pictures of both the real “Little Miss No Name” and Maryjane, who reminded me so much of this little doll when I first saw her.