Individual Parkies Taking Charge

Individual Parkies Taking Charge

There’s been a bunch of articles recently about average Jane or Joe Parkies taking charge of their lives and speaking out.  Shall we review a few?

1. Mike Wood Lifts Weights

Mike Wood, who lives in La Grande, Oregon, learned he had Parkinson’s three years ago, when he was 58.  At first he was devastated by the news, but then he seized control and starting working out at the gym.  Intensely.  He hired a personal trainer to push him physically, and now he’s a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer himself.  Here are three key paragraphs from the article:

What Wood has been able to accomplish in the last three years would make most 61-year-olds happy, let alone a person with Parkinson’s. Wood has lost approximately 30 pounds and is down to about 21 percent body fat. What’s more, he’s moved into powerlifting and is hoping to compete in a powerlifting competition in October. His combined weight about three months ago was 180 pounds for bench press, 250 for squats and 275 for deadlift.

And while he said the disease has progressed some over the last three years, Wood is still maintaining his function at a level close to the first diagnosis.

“My gait hasn’t changed much. I don’t have really good arm swing in my left arm, but a common loss is arm swing,” he said. “But I run. I jump. I lift. I do more than I did when I was 50 years old. Way more.”

Keep it up, Mike!


2.  The New York Times Asks Five Parkies to Speak About Their Lives

The New York Times has a special section called “Patient Voices.”  In this particular column, five people with Parkinson’s speak about their lives – on audio files as well as through written interviews.  Included are profile-pictures-audio on Alyssa Johnson, a 43-year-old marathon runner who says she is “still somewhat in denial about the disease,” but she ran the New York Marathon as a fundraiser for the Michael J Fox Foundation, garnering over $40,000.

Then there’s Scott Kemplan, age 53, who talks about getting DBS (deep brain stimulation) and being reluctant (at first) to take his shirt off at the beach, because the wires and battery gizmos implanted in his chest stand out so much.  There’s a picture of him shirtless; it definitely would attract stares from some people.  But he’s cool with that now.

Here are two paragraphs about his experience with DBS:

In 2003, Mr. Klempan elected to undergo deep brain stimulation surgery to help control his symptoms. It took nine months for doctors to calibrate the stimulation going from the battery packs in his chest into the different areas of his brain, but once that was done, Mr. Klempan was able to sharply lower the amount of medication he needed to control his symptoms.

Soon after the surgery, Mr. Klempan was able to resume an active life that includes skiing, mountain biking, painting and fishing. Mr. Klempan has not been able to return to work full time but says the surgery was the best decision he ever made. “It has given me my life back,” he says.

The Times article also interviews an elderly woman who is basically symptom-free but experiences discrimination when applying for space in senior citizen residences; a young father who is slowly informing his daughters about his having PD; and a 43-year-old man whose symptoms are worsening, yet he keeps an upbeat attitude.  “It may be a life sentence at this time,” he says, “but it’s not a death sentence.  It’s all how you look at it.”


3.  Parkie Runs 59 Marathons After Diagnosis

The Dallas News reports that Rhonda-Lee Foulds, who was diagnosed with PD at age 36, sort of gave up on life.  According to the article, “She underwent brain surgery, stopped running, gained weight and took 25 pills a day.”  Then she had a turn around.  She started training on her own and with a running group, running 35 to 60 miles per week, and competing in 59 marathons.

Now it seems nothing can stop her.  Last Thanksgiving she ran a “quad,” which is four marathons in four days!

The article includes a Q&A section, and here’s the final one:

What my workout says about me

My workout says I am determined to stay healthy regardless of my diagnosis. I always say that people are capable of so much more than they think they are. That’s definitely my situation, as I used to think I should just sit around and wait to wither and die.

Run for it, Rhonda-Lee!


4.  Seniors with Parkinson’s Take to the Stage

A group of Vermont senior citizens with PD, led by one of their own, are producing and acting in a play about the disease.  It’s a way to educate the public at large about Parkinson’s, but it’s also a form of therapy for them.  For example, they do a lot of pantomiming, which means they have to pay close attention to how they move their body.

Key paragraphs (about one of the actors, Duncan Wilkie, and his wife, Suzie):

With curtain call being just a day away, the Wilkie’s hope the audience realizes Parkinson’s is just part of life. It doesn’t stop you from living.

“It’s a new normal, that you live your life in different ways,” Suzie said. “But you can still have vibrancy, you can still have fun and companionship, you can still go places, you can do things.”


I like those final two paragraphs so much, I’ll repeat them as a conclusion, for my own benefit as well as everyone else’s:

With curtain call being just a day away, the Wilkie’s hope the audience realizes Parkinson’s is just part of life. It doesn’t stop you from living.

“It’s a new normal, that you live your life in different ways,” Suzie said. “But you can still have vibrancy, you can still have fun and companionship, you can still go places, you can do things.

Curtain call in five minutes!

About The Author: Bruce

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