NWPF

PD Community BlogRead Blog

The Helplessness Antidote

Friday April 24, 2015

There was no reason I deserved a visit from an angel. I didn’t believe in them at the time, nor do I now. Nevertheless, as I walked from my doctor’s office in a haze of questions, fears and old-fashioned misery, it was waiting for me. Waiting because a simple sentence had just laid waste to my plans, my dreams, my 43-year old life, “I think you have Parkinson’s Disease.”  

angel del spandex
How could I have Parkinson’s? How long could I simulate “normal”? When would I have to give up my job? What would this mean for my family? When should I tell my friends? The questions were silenced by a voice that rang with clarity and conviction.  “You have to exercise!” the angel’s voice intoned, “Or you will descend in no time in an ever-steepening spiral to complete incapacity.” The angel left me, in effect, with a little stone tablet bearing the 11th Commandment, “Move it or lose it.” It was a moment I think of as “The Visitation of the Spandex Angel”.                                                  


Where the angel got its information, I don’t know. This was over a decade ago, and though I burned up the Web in a search for something, anything, that could give me a straw to grasp, there was little there. Dr. Jay Alberts had yet to publish his signal discovery concerning tandem bicycling and the substantial symptomatic relief it can bring. There was no mention of the role Yoga, Tai-Chi and dance can play in aiding the crucial ability to balance, keeping us, PD patients out of hospitals with broken bones. There was nothing about the value of boxing, or weight-training or the big-movement strategy that now constantly make news in the Parkinson’s community.

I had nothing to go on beyond the urgent proclamation of my mystic visitor, and the conviction that, with my body under assault by this mysterious and destructive disease, I had to do all I could to protect the underlying strength and ability to move I still possessed.

So it was a matter of faith for me to get out of bed each morning, climb on my elliptical trainer and go as fast and hard as I could for a half-hour, five times a week. But it wasn’t long before it was clear to me that I was seeing mitigation of my symptoms. My tremor visibly subsided after a good exercise session, and speech improved. While out riding my bike, I would catch myself not only singing, but actually hitting the notes I was aiming for. And nothing dissipates the fog that rolls thick around my head in the mornings more effectively than exercise. These effects and the research that shows they are no mere fluke should be familiar gospel to anyone coping with PD.

But here are two additional reasons to move your body. The first is, beyond the benefits cited above, it just feels good. Should the day come at last when Parkinson’s Disease forces you into a wheelchair, you will at least have made the most of your ability to move while you could, and probably made that window in time when movement was possible larger than it would have otherwise been. Second, until these recent discoveries about exercise, all we could do was manage our decline. We were told our disease was progressive, incurable, and disabling, and we were helpless to do anything to change it. Helpless. Exercise can liberate us from this deadly feeling, freeing our spirits as we free our bodies.

Peter Dunlap-ShohlPeter Dunlap-Shohl
NWPF Blogger

Recent Posts

A Day in the Life of a Parkinson Warrior
Who Needs PAM?
Bicycling through Alaska Winter: Insanity, or Mere Stupidity?
Pay It Forward
Book Review: Dealing and Healing with Parkinson's Disease and Other Health Conditions

Archives

2017 2016
Lies That Parkinson's Disease Told Me
Managing the Holiday Blues 2016
Who Was That Masked Man?
The Rain Is Shining — A Thanksgiving Message
Book Review - H.O.P.E.: Four Keys to a Better Quality of Life for Parkinson's
David Leventhal: Dancer, Teacher, Community Leader, Humanitarian, Movement Specialist
Meet Emily!
Rhonda Foulds, Outrunning Parkinson's Disease
Book Review: The Perapatetic Pursuit of Parkinson Disease
Staff Stories - Melanie
Snake Oil, the Cure for Parkinson's.
Book Review: Nan Little
Life's a Lot Better with NWPF
Tipping Points
Book Review: Natural Therapies for Parkinson's Disease
Dare to Attend a Support Group
Ten for David
Time After Time: Kim Farmer's Story
The Glass is Half-Full
Book Review: Reverse Parkinson's Disease
Contentment
Parkinson's and Free Will
A positive attitude is everything
Book Review - Lucky Man: A Memoir
Alexithymia, the Parkinson’s Get Out of Jail Free Card
We Make Them Together: Major Decisions in Caregiving
Boxing is cool
Safety with Style: House Renovations you can hold on to
Book review: On My Own
Shaken to the Core
Isolation and Parkinson's Disease, The hiding and the hidden
Camp Brian Interview
Safety with Style: House design ideas you can hold on to
Book review: Shake Well Before Use
Notes on Acceptance
"Advice" to a person with Advancing Parkinson's Disease
Needed: New Parkinson’s Vocabulary
Caregiving: Ken's Story
A Well-Tested Testimonial, or Spin for Parkinson's
Safety with Style: House design ideas you can hold on to
Caregiving: Susan's Story
Rock Steady Boxing: Emily
Book Review: My Degeneration, A Journey Through Parkinson's
The Marble Halls of Power
Safety with Style: House design ideas you can hold on to
2015
ROCKIN’ AROUND THE GROCERY CART
Managing the Holiday Blues
Book Review: A Complete Guide for Patients and Families
The joke is on Parkinson's
I don't always like groups, but when I do...
JBC + DBS: A Mostly-Love Story (Continued)
Rock Steady Boxing: Fred Hyde
Present Moment: A Continued Conversation
Book Review: Navigating Life with Parkinson's Disease
JBC + DBS: A Mostly-Love Story
Present Moment
On the scent of Parkinson’s disease
Harold Allen (Hal) Newsom
The 2016 World Parkinson’s Congress in Portland, Oregon is Fast Approaching: Make Plans to Attend
Flowers on Dr. Starr's Tie
Leading the life of malicious whimsy
Listen: Unlocking Parkinson's Disease
Book Review: If I Can Climb Kilimanjaro, Why Can't I Brush My Teeth?
The Evolution of HOPE
QUIZ: How well do you know your Parkinson’s Disease?
Living with Hope
Notes on Hope
Tug, tug, tug
Denial on Trial
Flowers in Our Hair
Resilience: Bouncing Back from Adversity
Summer Travel
Tina Sawyer Steps Up Fundraising in Seaside
The uncooperative patient
To be in June
Pressure Sores
Caring for a Spouse Living with PD
Life Lessons
Doc Parkinson - A Eulogy
Boom Go Parkinson’s Costs
From the Depths of the Cupboards: Pumpkin Bars
Doctor's Visits
Get Moving!
Choosing a shared burden
Our Brain's "Negativity Bias" Part 2
Outside of Language
Managing Constipation in Parkinson’s Disease
Replacements
Finding Time for Caregiver Care
The Helplessness Antidote
Examples of living your best
10 exercise tips for people with Parkinson's
Bit on Basketball
Suggestions for the Shaken
Parkinson's Action Network (PAN) Report
Our Brain’s “Negativity Bias”
Living for a Cure
Three Huge Changes for People with Parkinson's
Caregiving, the Next Level
Parkinson's Pundit
Perseverance
Making Spousal Relationships Work
Parkinson’s and Luck
Strength. Courage.
Resolve to be a Better Caregiver!
Update from the Parkinson's Action Network
Strategies to Achieve our New Year’s Resolutions and Goals
Movement is Medicine
2014 2013 2012
Most popular posts of 2012
What are you grateful for this holiday season?
How can I tell whether medications are wearing off or Parkinson’s disease is progressing?
Can a person with Parkinson’s give blood?
When is the right time to start Levodopa?
Can acupuncture help PD symptoms?
Support the Caregiver in your Life
Power of the mind to move treatment further
Top 10 Foods for Parkinson’s (and counting!)
How can I prevent dizziness?
What can you tell me about laser light therapy and Parkinson’s
What is music therapy?
Should I take Coenzyme Q10 for my Parkinson’s?
How do I treat my cough at night?
Parkinson’s fitness programs need to be tailored to the individual to get results
Carrying the Olympic Torch for Parkinson’s today
Coffee reduces risk of Parkinson’s. What about other foods?
Facts about depression
How can I find a good doctor who is knowledgeable about PD and is caring as well? My doctor does not always listen.
Help for constipation
Sex, Intimacy and Parkinson’s
Does DBS affect speech?
Walking and balance can significantly impact quality of life- but is treatable.
Depression is common with Parkinson’s
Ode to Parkinson’s- Poem from Member
Music Enhances Brain Activity
How does posture change with Parkinson’s?
What is important to you?
Are hallucinations caused by Parkinson’s?
Hot Off the Press – Neupro approved by FDA
How do I find a Parkinson’s physical therapist to keep me exercising?
Does Azilect slow disease progression?
Manage nausea from medicines
Is delaying medication harmful?
Advice for newly diagnosed
Is Parkinson’s Hereditary?
Medication Timing
Is gambling a side effect of medicine?
Medication Assistance
Does stress cause Parkinson’s?
When to see a physical therapist
FDA approves DATScan
Coconut Oil
Protein’s effect on medicine
Restless Leg Syndrome