In March of 2017, I climbed Horsetooth Rock, a prominent feature of my home city, Fort Collins, Colorado. There I practiced yoga as a drone videoed me . . . alone with only the wind and the sky.
My first non-motor symptoms of PD started in 2008 consisting of loss of sense of smell, severe constipation, bladder difficulties and dry eyes. My motor symptoms appeared in 2011. They included stooped posture, loss of arm swing, tremors in my right arm and leg, a fixed mask-like face, slower and smaller movements, noticeable problems with balance, difficulty turning over in bed at night, smaller hand writing, loss of fine motor dexterity, and stiffness. Official neurological diagnosis came the following year, 2012.
My neurologist started me on Azelect and told me the most important thing I could do was to "exercise! exercise! exercise!"(THE BEST ADVICE YOU WILL EVER GET FROM A NEUROLOGIST!) I was already a jogger/walker. So I decided to increase my mileage and take up yoga. I went to my first yoga class the next day. It was life-changing.
I tried three medications over the next three months. The first was Azelect which is incredibly expensive and caused a severe dry mouth. I quit it after six weeks. Next, Amantadine seemed to help my tremor at first, but then it lost its effect. Finally, I tried Sinemet but didn’t notice any improvement so I quit after five days. In 2019 I went on Sinnemet for two months. At first, I thought my motor symptoms improved but at the end I was doing no better. (placebo effect)
But despite taking no medication, six months after my diagnosis, I noticed significant improvement which was clearly unrelated to medication. My face returned to normal expressiveness. My strides were longer and my arm swing better. Tremors in my right leg diminished. I was more limber and flexible. Over the ensuing five years my symptoms have continued to improve. Most people are surprised when I tell them I have PD. Most say they can’t see any sign of it. ESTABLISHING MY MINDSET
When first officially diagnosed, I refused to think of Parkinson's as a curse or a war to be waged. I looked upon it as a challenge. And then whimsically, a very clumsy dance partner. I was prepared to chart MY course and I refused to accept words like irreversible, downhill, hopeless, or progressive. I was prepared to be unique. I refused to passively follow the course outlined for me by Western culture or its medical establishments.
I was not new to exercise, I had been a runner most of my life. Although three knee surgeries and two foot surgeries made it difficult over the last ten years. Nevertheless, I decided to step it up a notch.
The day after my official diagnosis, I started practicing yoga; one of the smartest things I have ever done in my life. I dove into the practice taking four or five lessons a week. In essence, I was not a PWP doing yoga, I became a yogi who happened to have PD. While I am always aware of having PD, it does not define me. Rather, what I’m doing with my life defines me and I fit PD in. I don’t deny I have it. I have an observant part of my mind focused on how Parkinson's affects my movement and corrects it at the time .