April is Parkinson's Awareness Month. It is also a time for awareness of other causes and diseases. I am constantly aware of Parkinson's, however, since I was diagnosed with its symptoms three years ago, when I was 67. It is not as bad as cancer, ALS, PTSD or a host of other ailments. But it is a challenge. I have made many friends in the Parkinson's community in the past few years. We try to be upbeat and make the most of it, but it is hard. Many of us would like to meet Michael J. Fox, Janet Reno, Linda Ronstadt or other prominent "members of the club," but we have not yet had the chance. We struggle each day to walk, speak, or deal with the pain and fatigue. I make a point of telling people about my condition, so they will not think I am drunk when I stagger (I drink very little, although I drown myself with coffee!). Thank goodness I can still ski, as I have for 50 years. Turning and stopping pose problems! It is also important to keep swimming, walking, biking, and engage in any activities you can. Thank God I can still use a computer, and I believe I can still think clearly. My hands are weak, and I type in slow motion. Despite this, I continue to work as a White House reporter each day.
One of the best therapy activities I have found entails Parkinson's dance classes with the Bowen McCauley Dance organization. Our group meets on Wednesday afternoon at the Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Va. I am not very good, and it is frustrating to be unable to do simple movements, like waving my hands or rotating my ankle. But our instructor, Joanna Estes Janascius, is upbeat, graceful, and choses a great selection of music. Some of her students will perform on April 26 at the Kenmore School. It is part of a free day of "wellness, fitness, and fun for all ages, " called the "Move Me Festival." For more information about their programs, search www.BMDC.org or email Joanna at Joanna@bmdc.org.
The mover and shaker for Parkinson's activities in our area is "The Parkinson Foundation for the National Capital Area" or PFNCA. It is run by its hard working President and CEO, Jared Cohen, with help from a small staff and volunteers and donors. They are located in Falls Church, but fan out across the region and hold events, classes, lectures, and other activities. Nearly 600 people attended their major Symposium in March. Cohen says "experts in Parkinson's Disease led sessions on an overview of the disease, quality of life, recent research, fall prevention, cognitive changes, Deep Brain Stimulation, nutrition, behavioral changes, hospitalization, sleep abnormalities and sexuality." For more information on them, look at www.parkinsonfoundation.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is no known cure at this time, but we keep hoping. I expect to take part in some experimental projects, and will keep writing updates. But the important message is: have fun, enjoy life, and keep moving!