Imagine for one moment, being trapped inside a body that doesn't work properly and no longer responds to your brain signals. There you are, totally lucid, thoughts and wishes intact yet incapable of talking, writing, typing or making any visual signs to converse. Exhausted and weak, unable to reach out and make yourself heard or understood you would be powerless and vulnerable, dependent on others for everything and left with no control over your own life. What a frightening thought; a situation no one would wish to be in. Would your family assume you've lost your marbles or are "out to lunch" and therefore treat you differently simply because you can't communicate? Or would they have compassion and empathy, being able to see through the veil that masks their loved one with this rotten disease that slowly lurks in the shadows? Don't be so quick to assume and judge the picture before you, when looking at someone who is in a far advanced stage of Parkinson's.
I have reached the point of finding it difficult to write and type, the dexterity in my fingers being very poor. Sometimes my voice fails me, almost like turning down the volume, no one can hear me and I frequently sound hoarse as if I have a sore throat. When I'm able to speak and be heard, I speak slowly in a monotone. My face often freezes leaving me with a gormless blank expression giving the feeling I don't understand what's going on around me. All this gives a very false impression for let me assure you my sense of humour and fun remain intact, I'm as sharp as a pin, still have the ability to learn and retain new information, remember things that others have forgotten, and I hope you realise that I am writing this article you are reading right now!
Parkinson's is a complex disease with so many symptoms and side effects from medications, every patient is individual. People who are unfamiliar with Parkinson's usually have a stereotypic picture in mind of an elderly person shaking. This picture needs to be updated and creating awareness, educating the general public so they understand what it is to live with Parkinson's, is high on my agenda.
April signifies spring time, the season where nature yawns and shakes off the chilly overcoat of winter, life is renewed and nature blossoms as the weather becomes warmer. April is a lovely time of year, so how absurd that a month associated with new beginnings be designated to Parkinson's Awareness Month. More than likely April was picked since Dr. James Parkinson, who originally documented patients in 1817 with a new found disease (later known as Parkinson's), was born in April 1755.
Having lived with Parkinson's for several years, I can spot the subtle initial first signs on others; a resting tremor, a change in gait, the familiar posture and stiff movements, lack of arms swinging as one walks, and so on. As the disease progresses, the symptoms become more serious and disturbing, ultimately making the life of any patient more difficult than you could possibly imagine. I am completely aware of how this debilitating disease progresses, and I know what awaits me. It is this knowledge that makes me fight all the more, and I absolutely refuse to give up. I pray and hope that a cure be found before it's too late. Parkinson's disease is relentless and drags along anyone it can on a one way journey, making family members suffer too merely from having to care for and watch helplessly as this degenerative disease runs its course.
I therefore appeal to you, who are reading this article, to mark Parkinson's Awareness Month in some way. Parkinson's patients around the world are desperate to find a cure and many are running out of time. Whatever you can do to help; be it donating money to one of the many organisations funding research and development, getting involved with any activities in your area to bring greater awareness to Parkinson's disease, or simply become informed about a very common disease that is unfortunately growing in numbers. Even the smallest of acts like clicking on "like" at the top of this article shows everyone that people are paying attention and doing what they can. Nothing will change unless we make it happen!