In the well known fairy tale 'Snow White', the evil queen would look at a magic mirror and ask "Mirror, mirror, on the wall who is the fairest of them all?" Of course, like most children's stories, this tale has a happy ending. The same cannot be said for anyone suffering Parkinson's or other degenerative diseases, for the finale is very different. Every morning as I clean my teeth, and the strange reflection of someone I once knew stares back at me with an expressionless face, I wish I had a magic mirror that would show me what I'd like to see. Unfortunately the mirror does not lie, as I look at myself I can hardly believe it's me. Our bathroom scales annoyingly also tell me the truth, reminding me I had an extra helping of chocolate pudding the other night. In my defence I only took a second helping so that my guests would feel comfortable in having more (well that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it!). It always amazes me how those extra unwelcome pounds gravitate to places we'd rather they didn't, and once there, they make themselves quite at home, refusing to budge unless extreme action is taken. When I say extreme, I'm referring to that nasty four letter word: "diet" which should really be accompanied by physical activity. I only mention this, for as of late, our washing machine has taken on the irritating habit of shrinking clothes, and curiously only mine. A strange phenomena that maybe others are familiar with!
They (whoever "they" are) always say being on camera makes one look 10 pounds heavier, but I didn't realise it also has the uncanny ability of capturing every wrinkle and grey hair, ageing one instantly. Horrified looking at some photos of myself taken recently, I asked my family "Is this what I really look like?" Receiving a painfully honest answer, there was a resounding "Yes". It's curious how we see ourselves, even looking in the mirror, I don't see the same aged woman who stares with an unmistakable Parkinson glazed expression, that is so apparent in photographs.
I think it is painfully clear by now, that Parkinson's strikes anyone it pleases; the young or old, rich or poor, it makes no difference what race or culture, famous people in the limelight or those simply like you and me, athletes, those who do regular exercise and eat healthy diets, or couch potatoes who dine on takeaways, highly intelligent vivacious outgoing people and those who are gifted with the arts. There appears to be no common factor, Parkinson's choosing almost at random like some sort of macabre lottery gone awry.
Putting magic mirrors, chocolate pudding and scales aside, let me be serious for one moment, and tell you how all is not lost when faced with Parkinson's. I decided to fight back, I won't give in, and this is how I battle each day.
Firstly, a fundamental building block for anyone wanting to lead the best life they can, is having a good attitude and outlook. Make a conscious effort to be positive, cheerful, looking at the glass half full and count your blessings. If you can do this, believe it or not, you are half way there. Of course a good sense of humour goes a long way in helping ward off symptoms and lifting one's spirits and those around us.
Secondly, and equally as important is eating a correct healthy diet, (this means staying away from chocolate pudding!) keeping strictly to your regimen of Parkinson's medications, dosage and time of day. Pay attention not to eat protein too close to certain pills. Adhering to these "rules" ensures your body optimises your medication to its fullest.
Thirdly, but by no means any less important, physical activity should be treated as essential to one's well-being, helping living and coping as best one can with Parkinson's disease. Performing as much exercise as one can safely manage is paramount in keeping the muscles, painful rigidity and stiffness to a minimum. The less movement you do, the worse your condition will quickly become. This advice comes from personal experience, as a fellow sufferer who loathes sport, but realises the importance of keeping physically active. Each patient is different and therefore needs to find what is most effective and suitable for their circumstances.
One last piece of advice; when you next look at the mirror on the wall, accept and embrace what you see, and know that the wonderful person you are, is still there inside. Just look a little harder, and you'll see you're right there!