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The Art of Life and Death
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I Have a List, But No Bucket!

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Asked a very common question, "What is on your bucket list?" implying, "What do you want to do before you die?" made me stop in my tracks. If you understand the origin of the phrase "bucket list" you might agree with me, for this is a rather negative expression and should maybe be replaced with something far more positive; perhaps a simple alternative is "a wish list." Now that sounds so much better, don't you agree? Everyone should have dreams and goals to aim for in life, whether blessed with good health or like myself, plagued with illness. In fact I think the question should be turned around and rephrased to "What do you want to do with your life?" which immediately implies an optimistic approach. So now that we've re-phrased the question, let me give you my answer.

I suspect most people's "wish list", entails traveling to exotic far-off places they've dreamt of visiting. Some like adrenaline-rushing experiences such as sky diving, bungee jumping or white water rafting to mention but a few. Winning the lottery is another wish many dream of, yet in reality few achieve, as it's a matter of sheer luck, unlike having the ability to make something happen from your own efforts. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, walking the Great Wall of China or taking part in a marathon are other examples of what you might find on someone's list.

As strange as it sounds, having a positive happy attitude and not making a fuss, totally confuses people, especially doctors, but I refuse to be something I am not. -- Elaine Benton

However, living with two chronic conditions, Gaucher disease and Parkinson's, I possibly see life from a very different perspective as opposed to a person who is in good health. I am positive by nature and in spite of suffering chronic illness, I continue to maintain a cheerful attitude. I have spent much time in hospitals and undergone many operations, but looking at me, no one would guess I'm ill. As strange as it sounds, having a positive happy attitude and not making a fuss, totally confuses people, especially doctors, but I refuse to be something I am not. I shouldn't need to go around with a label stuck to my forehead informing everyone I'm chronically ill despite the smile on my face, or have to moan and wear a sad expression so that all understand how ill I am. It's far healthier emotionally to be optimistic and cheerful, not just for myself, but for my family, friends and all those around me.

So what is on my list you may well ask. What do I want to achieve in life? Like everyone else, there are places I would like to visit, but since being diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's at the age of 44, my life has altered drastically, and priorities naturally change. A few years ago we realized our home was not suitable for a disabled person, and began the long process of designing and building our dream home. We now live in a house, which has been especially designed around my needs with disabled-friendly features necessary to create a safe and comfortable environment, so this is one thing I have ticked off my list.

Life-changing situations can often make a person focus, and I have found what is really important to me; always seeing the cup half full, I've been given the ability to truly appreciate what matters most. I'm blessed to be married to an amazing man who continues to surprise me and after 25 years of marriage is still able to take my breath away. He is the love of my life, and his steadfast devotion, loyalty and endless patience are just some of the fine qualities I see in him. As simple as it may sound, laughter is a very important element. Thankfully my husband and I have retained a sense of humor in the face of adversity, often leaning on our British dry wit to get us through hard moments; being able to see the funny side of a situation and laugh together during the good times. Laughter is like a dose of the best medicine and I highly recommend it. Enjoying spending quality time with my darling husband, daughter, close family and good friends is far more valuable and precious to me than anything else I can think of. Like any caring parent I want to see my child grow up, be healthy, reach her full potential and be happily married. What more could a parent wish for?

Although my health situation makes life difficult, I am determined to battle on and not give up hope. I endeavor to live life to the fullest, not waste a single moment or opportunity, make the most of what I have and count my blessings. This is what I strive to achieve each day. There is one wish, which I share with millions of fellow sufferers around the world, and I think you can pretty much guess what it is; to find a cure for Parkinson's. Now wouldn't that be something if I could strike that off my list!

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