Fighting Parkinson’s, paying attention early

A couple of days ago, I picked up a book that assisted me in recovering from Parkinson’s. I thought maybe the lessons would have a different impact on me now. The book is Not Always So, by Shunryu Suzuki. This morning, I read a passage that really hit home.

Suzuki explains that, “A tiger catches a mouse with his whole strength. A tiger does not ignore or slight any small animal. The way he catches a mouse and the way he catches and devours a cow are the same. But usually, although you have many problems, you think they are minor, so you do not think it is necessary to exert yourself.” p. 21. By way of example, he states, “If you know something is wrong with your car, stop your car immediately and work on it. But usually we don’t. ‘Oh, this is a minor problem for my car. It is still running. Let’s go.’ This is not our [Zen] way. Even though we can keep driving, we should take care of our car very carefully. If you push your car to the limit, the problems are constantly working on your car, until finally it stops. Now it may be too late to fix it, and it will require a lot more energy.” p. 24.

This was Parkinson’s disease for me. In February of 2009, I had a minor pain in my left arm and was unable to squeeze a gas pump. Minor problem…easy solution…ignore the problem and use your other hand. The pain intensified when I lifted the water pitcher…easy solution…ignore the problem and use your other hand. In March of 2009, I periodically dropped something I had picked up with my left hand…easy solution…ignore the problem and use your other hand. In April 2009, I had pain in my arms as I did my morning Qigong. Minor problem…easy solution…stop doing Qigong. None of these minor problems improved. In September of 2009, internal tremors began, and within a couple days after that, I could not bring a utensil to my mouth, walk up the stairs without holding on, or get out of a chair without using my arms which hurt from the exertion of having to use them.

Looking at Suzuki’s words this morning sent a chill through my body: “If you push your car to the limit, the problems are constantly working on your car, until finally it stops. Now it may be too late to fix it, and it will require a lot more energy.” According to the experts, by the time those major Parkinson’s symptoms appeared, 60-80% of the neurons controlling my motor skills were dead. As we know, apparently I was not “too late to fix,” but it did require a lot more energy…and Parkinson’s steals your energy. It is part of why I adopted a “less is more” philosophy to conserve my energy to fight the disease.

In fighting Parkinson’s, I learned to listen to my body and follow what it told me. I had ignored all the signs my body so graciously had provided me, and I paid dearly for ignoring these “minor problems.” I do not like going to the doctor any more than I like taking my car to the shop. In both cases for the same reasons: 1. It is an acknowledgment that something is wrong that I cannot fix; and 2. It probably is going to cost me more money than is in my budget to take care of it. How foolish of me.

I hope you can learn from Suzuki’s wisdom and my mistakes.

All my best,

Howard

 

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