Friday 30 September 2011

PD - Making me tired all the time is just downright rude!

Nearly 75% of PD victims experience fatigue or Excessive Daytime Sleepiness or a combination of the two. I am no different. I wake up yawning and go to bed in the same state. This is just one of the non-motor symptoms of parkinson's and it is compounded by using the dopamine agonist, mirapex. There are days I feel like, and act like, a zombie - but what can I do? I could reduce the fatigue by cutting out mirapex but then my right hand would start its incessant tango. An afternoon nap helps a bit but not enough. I am between a rock and a hard place but have decided I do not want the tremor to return, so I am stuck with the all-consuming fatigue.

Whoever said that the amount of sleep a person requires is five minutes more, was a genius.

In the meantime, if I ever do fall into a deep sleep, don't wake me up until March.

Thursday 29 September 2011

I am unhappy with my neck

One of the early signs of PD is a stiff neck. I have had a stiff neck for years. I just thought it was due to one of the many injuries I have suffered over the years - maybe a little arthritis. I never gave it much thought. I had (and continue to have) difficulty looking over my shoulder when backing the car out of the garage. I couldn't (and still can't) turn my head in either direction without feeling the muscles stiffen and resist movement. And oh yeah, there is also the pain. When I turn my head in either direction, I feel pain throughout my neck and into my shoulders.

Just another of the little joys that PD sends my way. At least I can still see straight.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

The trouble with being a hypochondriac these days is that antibiotics have cured all the good diseases.

I remember an Anton Chekhov play in which one of the characters says words to the effect that if there is a plethora of treatments for a disease, the disease must be incurable.

There are a number of treatments for PD and at the moment, parkinson's is incurable.

The effect of this is that I am becoming a hypochondriac. Yesterday, for example, while lying in bed, I kicked at the covers with my left leg. The result was a cramp in my left foot. I immediately thought I was progressing into stage two where both sides of my body will be affected. The cramp went away when I stood up and with a little rational thinking, I realized it was just one of those annoying cramps everybody gets. At least that is my position and I am sticking to it until I find out differently.

The trouble with the internet is that you can discover everything you ever wanted to know about PD and you await the arrival of every symptom you ever read; then you imagine you are sometimes experiencing a symptom when it is not there. For example, victims of PD eventually lose their balance and are prone to fall. When I fell on my walk, described in an earlier post, I thought falling was now on my PD agenda when in fact, I had stubbed my toe on a raised piece of an old sidewalk.

You know that old joke about the epitaph on the headstone of a hypochondriac NOW WILL YOU BELIEVE ME. I'd rather not be that corpse. Increased symptoms will eventually arrive but until then, I will remain optimistic and avoid finding those symptoms before they get here.

A Short History of Medicine

2000 B.C. - "Here, eat this root."
1000 B.C. - "That root is heathen, say this prayer."
1850 A.D. - "That prayer is superstition, drink this potion."
1940 A.D. - "That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill."
1985 A.D. - "That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic."
2000 A.D. - "That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root."

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Proof is arbitrary, unless it concerns our libido........

I have not had a tremor in the past day and a half, thanks to mirapex and amantadine. I can feel that my arm and hand want to get jiggy, but cannot. It is a good feeling. Who knows how long it will last.

If nothing else, parkinson's and its treatments are interesting. For example, Mirapex, that little white pill that has stabilized my right side, has a couple of odd side effects.

Mirapex can cause increased libido.


Mirapex can cause decreased libido.

Which one did I get? Neither, what libido I have left has remained constant. The only side effect of mirapex that I got is an obsession with food that is maybe second to sex.

Food and sex - forever linked. Great food is like great sex, the more great food you eat, the more your body craves it.

Fortunately, I have my constant craving under control. I just watch the food channel!

Monday 26 September 2011

Spit and be silent

We victims of PD often have excess saliva in our mouths. This not caused by an over production of saliva in the major and minor salivary glands. Rather, excess saliva builds up in our mouths because we tend to swallow less. Usually it is not noticeable, but sometimes it causes spittle to form at the corners of our mouths. I combat it by forcing myself to swallow more and talk less. So far, it has not been a problem.

But, my voice is disappearing again. It seems to emanate from the far recesses of my throat and present itself as raspy and quiet. It makes social discourse rather difficult because (a) I can hear myself and know that it is not my usual voice so I stumble over words with the result being I tend to keep quiet and (b) the listener has trouble hearing what little I have to say.

Silence is becoming my mode of conversation.

Not merely an absence of noise, Real Silence begins when a reasonable being withdraws from the noise in order to find peace and order in his inner sanctuary. ~Peter Minard

Sunday 25 September 2011

The future ain't what it used to be. - Yogi Berra

I was watching the Blue Bombers play Toronto last night. I got up to get a drink of water and on the way back, my right hand started to bounce around like a whirling Dervish, in spite of the drugs I had taken about an hour before. You can imagine my disappointment. Two weeks without a tremor and now it was back! My hope that I could face the future because of the drugs was fading.

What brought on this new tremor? I had had a small recurrence at the funeral and now it was here again. What was the connection? How was a funeral related to a football game? It must have been stress. I am a huge Bomber fan and they were getting beaten by an inferior team. My brain just went into overload, overcame the drug barrier and I got a dancing hand. That was it - stress - no matter how small, seems to give my hand free rein to annoy me.

I am relieved to say, the hand is back to normal this morning. The drugs are working again.

Note to self: avoid (a) watching losing football games and (b) all social situations.

The Bombers will just have to keep winning and I will consider becoming a hermit because, as Steven Wright said, “Hermits have no peer pressure.”

Saturday 24 September 2011

It's no use of talking unless people understand what you say.

I had to go downtown yesterday, to the Trizac Tower. I got on the elevator with a woman. I had to go to the 3rd floor but noticed the first stop on the elevator was the 19th floor. I mumbled "wrong elevator" but it came out "rrog elvater". At first she seemed startled but then the woman asked me where I wanted to go. I turned and said "three" but, because I had excessive saliva in my mouth and because I got a little confused by the question, I slobbered out "free" with my jaw shaking and spittle forming at the corner of my mouth. She smiled kindly and pointed out the correct elevator by which time, I had recovered enough to give an intelligent smile and precise "thank you".

Dysarthria is the name given to speech disorders caused by loss of control of muscles that produce sound. Hypokinetic dysarthria is the name given to parkinson's speech problems which can include loss of volume control, harshness, difficulty changing pitch, fast talking and imprecise pronunciation. Most of the time, I sound mostly normal but other times I sound like I have the mother of all colds and I speak in a monotone and seem completely detached from what I am saying. The woman on the elevator caught me by surprise and must have thought I was not playing with a full deck. The excess of saliva (another symptom) just added to the effect (think of the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer has his mouth frozen by the dentist). It was embarrassing at the time but I will never see her again and besides I think I recovered enough to leave her with a decent, if not a great, impression.

Anyway, from now on I talk only to myself then at least I will know somebody is listening and understanding.

Friday 23 September 2011

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear - Mark Twain

I think my father was the most courageous man I have known. He was diagnosed with Altzheimer's in his seventies and he lived into his mid eighties. Imagine, when he was first diagnosed, he knew and understood what would happen to him in the future; yet, he never complained; never even spoke about it. He just went bravely into, what he later described as "hell".

When I think of my possible future, I think of my father. If he could resist fear, so can I. If he could endure, so will I. There is no better role model. I can deal with any fear that PD might throw at me, just by thinking about my dad.

I am the master of my fate.

I have essentially been tremor free for a couple of weeks. What a relief to feel normal! Yesterday however, I went to a funeral for a man I held in very high esteem. It wasn't terribly sad because he had lived a long and fascinating life. Originally, he was from Texas. He came to Canada to play football back in 1950 and quickly became one of the best players ever to play here. He settled in Canada but always claimed to be a citizen of 3 countries, Canada, USA, and the Republic of Texas. The event was a celebration of his life. Why then did I have to leave early when my hand would not keep still in spite of the drugs?!

It seems to have calmed down this morning.

Thursday 22 September 2011

I've seen the future brother, it is murder!

Typically, PWP go through 5 stages although, the time spent in each stage varies and is not predictable. The stages I have to look forward to are:

Stage one: a patient usually experiences mild symptoms. Typically these symptoms include the presence of tremors or experiencing shaking in one of the limbs.

Stage two: the patients symptoms are bilateral, affecting both limbs and both sides of the body. He/she will have problems walking or maintaining balance.

Stage three
: can be rather severe. Walking and standing can be difficult.

Stage four: severe symptoms of Parkinson's. Walking may still occur, but it is often limited and rigidity and bradykinesia are often visible. The tremors or shakiness that appeared during the earlier stages however, may lessen or disappear.

Stage five: The final stage of Parkinson's disease. The patient is usually unable to take care of himself or herself and may not be able to stand or walk. A patient at stage five usually requires constant one-on-one nursing care.

I am currently at stage one. Symptoms are rather annoying but under control. I suspect I will be dead before reaching stage 5 and in the meantime, there is a plethora of drugs to keep the symptoms in check.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

For this, be sure, tonight thou shalt have cramps, side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up”

Everyone gets the occasional foot cramp but, about 7 years ago, I was getting them a few times a week, usually, if not always, when I was lying in bed. They were not the wretched cramps I get now where my foot twists itself in and up; they were the ordinary annoying cramps that make you get out of bed and hop around. They were not long lasting and did no damage.

This went on for several weeks. Their frequency worried me. I even mentioned it to my doctor who found nothing unusual about them. I felt foolish for bringing it up. Surely he had more serious problems to deal with. He was non-judgmental and sent me on my way, relieved that I didn't have a monumental illness.

Now, I find out that such foot spasms could be a forewarning of neurological problems, such as parkinson's. Who would have thought!?!

As I said, everyone gets the occasional cramp and 99.9% are not symptoms of parkinson's or any other severe condition. But if your doctor says, "I have good news and bad news. The good news is you are not a hypochondriac." Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

O Sleep, O Gentle Sleep, Natures Soft Nurse, How Have I Frightend Thee?

Insomnia is a highly frequent complaint in patients with PD. It seems to have hit me early in the course of the condition. [Is PD really a "disease"? I didn't catch a PD bug? It is just my brain beating up on me. I think it should be called a "condition"]

Anyway, I have no trouble falling asleep; rather, my problem is staying asleep. Today I woke at 2:30AM and have been up since then. Thank goodness for satellite radio. I lie in bed and listen to American news shows, some of which border on the insane (eg Glenn Beck) while others tend to be more liberal and interesting (eg MSNBC). BBC radio is also very good. I wait until 4:30 before getting out of bed and I go to work. By noon, I am a wreck so I watch TV and take about a 15 minute nap (today's TV - another episode of "Weeds" from Netflix). The nap sort of refreshes me until 8:00PM or so when I crash.

In the end, I get about 6 hours of sleep. I know, that is not bad, but I need at least 8 hours to make it through the day.

A sad tale, but true.

Apparently sleep is a luxury beyond my means.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Strikes and gutter balls

For two days, I was symptom free (thanks to the drugs) and able to participate in life without feeling embarrassed by a right hand and arm doing a salsa. Neither were there any charlie horses, or agonizing muscle curls, at night. I still could not sleep for more than 3 hours straight and so I got up early and was out walking my daughter's dogs at 4:30AM. That got rid of my daily exercise. Things were looking good.

But later, while lying down watching TV, I felt those familiar sparks in my legs. I prepared myself for the worst but that gut-wrenching twisting of my leg muscle did not appear. I relaxed. A few minutes later, my toes began to curl down. I was determined not to let them have their way. Through concentration, I held them at bay. I relaxed - big mistake. As soon as I quit concentrating, they continued to curl down and my foot went into spasm. That hurts! The sole of my foot was tender. I did my usual - stand for a few minutes and the foot and toes gave in and went away.

Sometimes, you just can't win...and with PD, you don't stand a chance, but it is important to keep on trying.

Friday 16 September 2011

Here I stand, head in hand, can't turn my face at all

Maybe you saw Mohammed Ali at the Academy Awards for the movie "When We Were Kings". His face was expressionless (although, you could see the twinkle in his eye). A medical dictionary calls that look the Parkinson's Mask and defines it as "an expressionless face with eyebrows raised and smoothing but immobility of facial muscles". It is simply a fixed, vacant stare that makes the victim appear uninterested in what someone is doing or saying. A PWP with this condition can usually force a smile but it doesn't come easily. For example, if they are having their picture taken and are told to smile, they can. They just can't do it without effort.

This condition is correctly called "hypomimia" and, as I wrote in an earlier entry, it has visited me once back in February. I am told it has not happened since; although, I think I can feel a difference in the muscles around my neck and mouth, but I am getting a little paranoid. So who knows what will happen next?

An Alaskan cartoonist, Peter Dunlap-Shohl, a PWP, captured the essence of the condition in this cartoon:

The second picture in row two depicts the character with dyskinesias, uncontrolled movements brought on by prolonged use of L-dopa.

For me, so far, my symptoms are controlled by mirapex, a dopamine agonist. Dopamine agonists are drugs that act like dopamine by sending the same message as dopamine to nerve cells. Agonists are less likely to result in dyskinesias.

Now it is time for me to go and take my mirapex, with an amantadine chaser.

There is never a dull moment with this condition.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Lend me your ears.

My voice has returned to normal and I hope it will remain that way for a few years. Funny how these things come and go. I feel fairly ordinary now - in a good way; although, a touch of insomnia is making incursions. I wake up around 3:30 and can't go back to sleep so I get up and get to work. It is amazing how much you can get done at that time of day. No distractions. It frees up time for a movie in the afternoon. I am so hyped up, I can't even nap and at 7pm, I am still wide awake. It is like I am on crack cocaine.

Give me an hour or so and I will crash. The exhaustion will start somewhere in my body and slowly, but surely, will fill up the remainder of it. By 8:30pm, I will be sound asleep.

Fortunately, there are only reality shows on TV these days, so I don't miss anything good.

(next morning) Well, I did fall into a deep sleep around 8:30 only to waken a little after midnight to my right leg twitching inside. Here we go, I thought. Sure enough, the muscle began to twist, my leg began to turn inward and my foot upward. The beast was back. I thought I would try to defeat it by rubbing my leg - no luck - by holding my leg down with my left leg - no luck. Finally, I stood beside my bed, unable to sleep but still lost in a dream and finally relaxation settled in, with some residual pain, after 5 minutes. Managed to get back to sleep but was awake and working by 4:30AM.

A good night's sleep to me is like a 70 foot great white shark. It might exist, but I am never going to see one.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

The old gray mare....she ain't what she used to be.

Went to the neurologist today. Took about 10 minutes as there wasn't much to talk about. Increased the dosage of my medication and asked a few questions. Nothing else he could do. I go to the Movement Disorder Clinic in November.

The tremor has all but disappeared and I am feeling pretty good.

Had lunch with an old friend awhile back and told him I had PD. His response was "We are all going to get something." He was referring to the aging population which is living longer lives. Online, I found this article, which should scare people:

In addition to relieving patient suffering, research is needed to help reduce the enormous economic and social burdens posed by chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

To name but a few.

The economic impact will be huge. My friend was right, we are all going to get something eventually. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "All diseases run into one, old age."

But then that famous pitcher, Satchel Paige (at 42, the oldest rookie ever in major league baseball) said, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?" Maybe that is an attitude we should all adopt.

Enough rambling. I will return when anything new arises.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

The days of whine and roses.....

If it sounds like I am whining in my postings, well, get used to it. This blog is my catharsis, my shrink and my shaman all wrapped up in one.

However, today I feel pretty healthy. The tremor has not reappeared and I see the neurologist tomorrow.

Things are looking good. Not great, but not black either. Let me say for now, things are rosy, while always reminding myself to be aware of the thorns.

We'll see what the doctor says.

Monday 12 September 2011

It's a quarter to 3. Only the dogs are awake...and me.

I decided to get up and do some work. Sleeping was difficult, even with the drugs. First my back hurt but a heating pad helped that. But then, insidiously, the skin on my right lower leg became hard. Hard! you say. That is the only way to describe it. The skin itself wasn't hard, it just felt hard. The beast was returning. Gradually the "hardness" crept into my calf muscle and began its malevolent work. My hardened calf started to twist and my leg straightened like a steel pipe. Little jolts began firing in my foot. That was not a good omen! I tried to ignore the beast but it had its mission and wasn't about to let it go.

"What the hell," I said aloud and got off the bed and planted both feet on the floor and stood there for a few minutes. The muscle relaxed and the beast retreated. I, on the other hand, could not relax so here I am at about 3:15 AM writing in my blog. There is still some pain in my leg but if I don't think about it....well, at this moment I have not achieved that level of nirvana yet.

The last time I was out of bed this early was when my kids were young at Christmas. We were indulgent parents and let them drag us from under the covers and down the stairs to see what Santa had brought. Previously to that, the only time(s) I was up this early was when I hadn't gone to bed and didn't plan to in the next couple of hours. Parties can be sleep deprivers.

It is a cruelty of life, not being able to sleep when it is pitch black outside. Totally unnatural. Thank God for the afternoon nap. Consciousness is that annoying period between naps.

Sunday 11 September 2011

The sounds of silence

I am being robbed of my voice!!! I am getting quieter and raspier with each passing day. Went to buy a new cell phone and the person serving me had to keep saying "sorry?" "What's that?" "you want what? Finally, I quit speaking and let my wife handle everything (she is better at it than I, anyway).

Reduced speaking volume is called "hypophonia". That's not so bad, I can always force myself to speak louder. The raspiness is more of a monotone. In other words, I am having difficulty conveying my emotional message, even if the listener can hear me. I have read that I also will have the joy of experiencing "dysarthria" - ie - difficulty forming the words I am trying to say.

On the upside, the tremors remain at bay; although, every so often they appear as my thumb and first finger on my right hand seem to feel the need to caress each other. Unfortunately, I have also felt this on my left hand as well. Still, I appreciate the vacation from the tremors and vibrations.

Shakespeare wrote "Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.” Apparently I am not going to have a choice in that. But, I have never had much to say anyway.

Friday 9 September 2011

Stress doesn't hurt but our reaction to it might.

The tremor remains fairly calm, except in moments of stress; not distress even, just events beyond what I was expecting (in this case a misplaced file) then the tremor returns. Its frequency is reduced and its intensity lessened, but it is there, just to remind me that I am not home free. My strategy to cope with this - forget about the lost file; it is here somewhere. Go and watch an episode of Californication on Netflix. A little Hank Moody to cheer you up. I recommend this method to the medical community.

This I did and later found the file where I had put it for safekeeping. No stress, no tremor.

What is it like having PD, with or without a tremor? Well as one person in the Parkinson's Forum said, "Life just gets harder."

That about sums it up.

Off to the cottage where we only have dialup. Chances of a posting are slim. Back Monday.

I now have readers in Canada, USA, Ireland, UK, Germany, India, Brazil, Hungary, Netherlands, Russia, Thailand, Japan, Spain, Belgium, France Greece and Malta. Thanks to all of you.

Thursday 8 September 2011

A Subtle Drive-by Complaint

Still no tremor; although, during a vigorous workout, I could detect the muscles in my lower right arm and hand wanting to be set free; to be released, so to speak, to annoy and embarrass me. But, it was not to be. Not yesterday. All exercises went smoothly, without any foreign vibration. Even the exhaustion backed off a bit. I still took that afternoon nap. That is one of the advantages of having your office in your house - naps and movies.

The only problem remaining is that "parky" feeling. This is difficult to describe. You are loose all over with weak muscles and pliable bones. When I am walking, I feel like a marionette whose strings are being cut by a malicious puppeteer. It is not noticeable to others; in fact, people say I look normal and I suppose I do. But, inside I feel totally abnormal and outside, I notice the occasional shuffle when my right foot doesn't hit the ground properly.

Complaining can be a vaccination against despair, so, I thought I would get an early start.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

The Vulcan Mind Meld

Okay, so this has nothing to do with Vulcans - just a catchy title.

Yesterday, I had no tremor, zero, ziltch, none and I think it was due to the melding of the effects of two little pills, mirapex and amantadine. I took them both in the morning and after two or three hours - no tremor. Of course, I was too tired to celebrate as I suspect that state of zombiism I slipped into was the result of the pill meld.

Mirapex is a "dopamine agonist" and it mimics or imitates the action of dopamine. As I mentioned earlier, besides sleepiness, some side effects of mirapex are hallucinations, leg swelling and obsessions with food, sex and activities such as shopping, gambling and Internet use. Of course, I get eating! Maybe some internet use but I have always been on the internet for extended periods of time, so that doesn't count.

Amantadine, is an anti-viral drug, which seems to enhance dopamine and blocks glutamate, a brain transmitter which acts as a neurotoxin in the presence of impaired cells, such as those which produce dopamine.

Or something like that.

Whatever they do, they have taken away my tremor, which I won't miss, and have given me an excuse for a power nap in the afternoon. Success is sweet.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it. - W.C. Fields

Tuesday 6 September 2011

God is a Comedian but his audience is afraid to laugh

I was reading an article in the Toronto Globe & Mail in which a PWP spoke of his initial reaction to his diagnosis. He was in denial. I must have missed that stage. How can I deny the obvious? Of course, his diagnosis came when he was in his mid-thirties, young, healthy, strong - denial at that time in life is probably logical. At my age, denial is just a river in Egypt. I have gone from diagnosis to acceptance, without the stress of denying the undeniable.

I have never asked myself, "why me?" or any variation thereof. I have the disease. It is just one of life's little jokes. Joke? you may ask. Yes. Isn't it true that if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans? God is a jokester and (s)he and I have had a giggle or two about my situation. For example, when my 3 month old granddaughter is upset, she settles down quickly when I hold her. After all, my right hand/arm is a human vibrating bed for her. On the other hand (no pun intended), my right hand is useless when burping her. Once it gets its snare drum, staccato rhythm going, it just won't stop and becomes a form of syncopated child abuse.

Can't you see God chortling on high?

Monday 5 September 2011

Two and A Half Good Days

I can have good days and bad days. Bad days involve exhaustion, tremor and leg cramps, or any combination of those. Good days involve slight tiredness, reluctant tremor and only some leg stiffness.

The past 2.5 days have been pretty good. An afternoon nap of 15 minutes each day prevented the exhaustion and the medication kept the tremor to a minimum. Some loss of balance, especially when getting out of a soft sofa; although, I am not sure I can attribute that to PD. I feel it is just the aging process, as I have seen it happen to others of my vintage.

One other symptom I may be experiencing is impaired speech. Parkinson's disease sufferers sometimes have problems speaking. Their voices are often monotonous and hard to hear. I am not so certain about this in my case. I do know my voice is developing a certain harshness to it, but monotonous and hard to hear...... Well, maybe. My wife is often complaining....what?.....pardon me?......sorry?....can you speak up?... can't hear you!, etc. My problem is I am not sure if it is my speech problem or her hearing problem. After all, she too has passed sixty.

Besides, I never could speak well enough to be unintelligible.

Sunday 4 September 2011

Micrographia - I've got to admit its getting smaller

One symptom of PD is micrographia, very small handwriting as fine motor movments deteriorate. I tried to describe it in an earlier post. It is as if the brain knows what it should be doing, but the hand stiffens and slows down as the pen moves. No amount of concentration helps.

Even in my parky state, my signature is readable. The picture below shows my signature when the drugs kick in and my signature when the drugs are no longer working. Still not too bad, but it can be worse than this example.

A better example, that I found online, is below. The top signature is when the writer is off drugs and the one below is when the writer is on drugs.

Fortunately, my handwriting is still better than a friend of mine, who does not have PD, and whose handwriting is indecipherable and I wonder if all doctors have PD. Their prescriptions are unreadable except by the pharmists who, I believe, have special decoder rings.

You may not be able to read a doctor's handwriting and prescription, but you'll notice his bills are neatly typewritten. (Earl Wilson)

Saturday 3 September 2011

My idea of exercise is a good brisk sit. (Phyllis Diller)

Over and over in my readings about PD, exercise is emphasized as a possible way of delaying the progression of the disease. But, nowhere do they tell you what kind of exercise is best or for how long each session should last - probably because any exercise for any length of time is beneficial.

The exercise regimes I use (and why) are:

1. Running - although lately curtailed due to a groin injury, I normally run about 2 miles alternating fast laps with slow. If I am "feeling" the joy of the exertion, I will go 3 miles. Running is good because the arms are bent and somehow that interferes with the tremor in my hand and thus can be done in public with minimum embarrassment (yes, I confess, my tremor can be embarrassing)

2. Walking - I usually walk for 40 minutes to an hour. I exaggerate my arm swing so that I look like a North Korean soldier on steroids. For some reason, I do not find this embarrassing. I also lengthen my stride and emphasize heel/toe. In my mind, such exercise may delay the onset of a lack of arm swing and a shuffling gait. It may also help prevent falls. I can keep my tremor to a minimum by gripping my Ipod Touch in that hand.

3. Race Walking - I used to do this competitively 25 years ago. If you don't know the technique, I am sure it can be found online. This is a great exercise. It combines the exertion of running with the healthiness of walking (ie - easy on the joints). Your arms are bent, so that little, if any tremor shows up. The best reason for race walking is, it is great for balance. Find a line on a track or on the road and when you plant your feet (heel first), do so so that they land on the line every time. The body should be held straight with lots of good hip action - good for the core muscles involved in balance. I believe the world's record over a mile is 5.5 minutes.

4. Resistance Training - I use machines and occasionally, free weights. Emphasis is on the abductor muscles. I hate weight training, but I figure, what the heck, I am here so why not add bench presses and flys and get those pecs looking as good as can be expected in a 65 year old male. One of these days, I will work on my abs and maybe develop a 2-pack or less.

5. Stationary bike - my bike is broken so I am reduced to a stationary bike. I use it as a warm up to get all lower body muscles moving - usually 6 miles at 2 minutes per mile over 20 minutes.

6. Stretches - I concentrate on any group that will help maintain balance as the disease progresses - eg - hamstrings, quads, back, etc.

These are the routines I use in my exercise program. There are other routines. A couple of decades ago, a good friend of mine told me he had decided to take exercising seriously.

"Good!" I responded

"Yep," he said, "today I bench pressed my sheets. One set of one."

He also told me he was going to start stretching because, "I want to be 6 foot 7."

Friday 2 September 2011

Spousal Support

Lately I have looked into support groups. I am not sure why. It just seems de rigeur for a PD victim to use a support group. At the moment, I don't feel the need. I have my readers, but more importantly, I have my wife. Heaven will not be heaven if my wife isn't there. She exudes quiet confidence about my condition. Not the fawning type but rather the type that admonishes me with "Why do you read that stuff? You are OK now and there is a good chance your PD will progress slowly and if it doesn't, we can work it out!"

I value those remarks and when I tell her I am suffering a moment of fear. She listens. That's all - just listens - and somehow the fear dissipates. The upshot is, I know I am not alone in my thoughts as she somehow gets into my head and keeps me grounded.

The only thing a sane man requires with PD hanging over his shoulder, is a good wife. I still have my sanity and I have an exceptional wife. A support group, at this stage of the condition, does not seem necessary.

Did I mention my wife is a physiotherapist? She knows what she is talking about. I am a very lucky man.

Of course, we still have our moments. To paraphase Jack Benny, my wife and I have been married for thirty-seven years and not once have we had an argument serious enough to consider divorce; murder, yes, but divorce, never.

Writing is a bonus and my therapy. I talk about myself and everything makes sense!

I started this blog 18 days ago and have close to 600 reads with readers in Canada, USA, Ireland, UK, Germany, Russia, India, Japan, Thailand, Malta, Netherlands and Nepal. It is gratifying to have a large audience as my therapist, and much cheaper. Thanks to all of you. I hope you will keep on reading as I try to demystify PD both to myself and to the reader.

UK Parkinson's

Thursday 1 September 2011

Leg spasm, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so

"I went to a Gestalt therapist and said that I want to be able to at least tell my muscles that aren't involved that they don't have to go into spasms too."(Dick York)

I am just about asleep and I feel my leg muscle(s?) start to cramp and stiffen at the same time. Within nano seconds, it is in a full blown spasm, twisting away as if it is consciously, gleefully, trying to injure me. It is trying my patience. I jump out of bed, not realizing my foot has started to curve in, and I land on the outer edge, like some misconceived salchow. I almost break my ankle, but I survive to fight another day.

Except it doesn't take a day. Around 2 in the morning, it starts again. I go into the fetal position.... but it has that particular maneuver figured out and keeps on twisting; so I straighten my leg into a rigid post, hoping that will stretch the muscle into relaxation. No such luck. Finally, I lie on my back, bend both knees apart and put the soles of my feet together while pressing my hands down on thighs. I feel the muscle let go and relax. Success! I have defeated my nemesis. Victory is sweet and I lie awake enjoying its taste.

Problem is, I now have insomnia and my sleeping pill doesn't help. I turn on Third Rock From the Sun and fall asleep about the time Sally figures out men and women really are opposite sexes. Oh, for the good old comedies and dramas. I detest reality TV---almost as much as muscle spasms!

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

(T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men)