My World of Parkinsonian Delights

Reflecting on Physical Therapy

If I may be pardoned, as a former satellite radio Broadway program director I feel it’s time for a LaMancha moment.

“To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe.  To bear with unbearable sorrow.  To run where the brave dare not go.  To right the unrightable wrong, to be better far than you are, to try when your arms are too weary to reach the unreachable star.”

Giving some thought, here, to the past month’s worth of physical therapy I just completed.  I know it’s part of the therapist’s job to make the patient feel positive about the effort he’s put into the work.  But given the degenerative nature of Parkinson’s disease — the fact that it WILL get worse — am I winning small battles while the final outcome is certain defeat?

Honestly, the only areas where I feel real improvement are in my shoulder (which, once again, has a functional range of motion — not complete, but functional) and in my stride.

I still experience as much freezing of gait as I did a month ago — if not more.  And despite the tech’s evaluation, I don’t feel as if my balance has really improved noticeably.

I have learned some valuable techniques.  When I freeze, instead of trying to struggle or rock myself free, I just let myself relax and the episode generally passes in a couple seconds.  When I turn, I no longer have to take tiny little shuffle steps.  I’ve been shown how to do “L turns” — pivoting the outside foot at a 45 degree angle and bringing the inside foot with it to keep from crossing up my feet and falling.

I am now able to stand with my feet together and my eyes closed for a longer time.  But when I put one foot in front of the other and close my eyes, I will still wobble and fall.  And I remain unable to stand on either foot by itself for longer than 3 seconds.

My timed up and go has improved from 30 sec. to 20 sec.  But before we get all congratulatory, let us recall where a timed up and go of 20 seconds places us in the realm of disability.

(Image borrowed from a PDF file on the subject.)

So, am I doing better?  It seems so.  But it still seems like a battle won in a war I’m destined to lose.  Parkinson’s disease is progressive, I will continue to deteriorate, but I will fight it every friggin’ step of the way.  The last thing I want to do is just give up and sit here slumped in my seat, drooling onto my shirt, waiting for death.

That would be too easy.

Seems like God/the Cosmos/the Universe or the Tooth Fairy (choose your deity) has chosen me for this fight for a purpose.  I know it’s a fight I cannot win, barring discovery of a cure.  But damned if I am going to give up without an epic struggle of therapy, exercise, whining and blogging about it.

“And this is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far.  To fight for what’s right without question or pause, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause.  And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest, that my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest.  And the world will be better for this, that one man broken and covered with scars, still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable star!”

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