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The uncooperative patient

Friday July 10, 2015

I shouldn’t be writing this. Almost fourteen years ago my wife and I sat in a neurologist’s examining room, trying to pin my new doctor down on just what his diagnosis of my Parkinson’s Disease meant. The doctor was in the unenviable position of being forced to bring bad news to strangers. Understandably, he was reluctant, dodging, weaving, hemming, hawing, zigging and zagging. I finally framed the question in a way that left no wiggle room.  “How many years until I’m totally incapacitated?” Not one to give up easily, he made one last stab at evasion “I’m always wrong.” he protested. We insisted. We pressed. We finally dragged it out of him.

NWPF Illo 19“10 to 15 years.” he said.

So, I shouldn’t be writing this. I'm deep into the far side of the time I thought I had. My fingers should be either too stiff, too ridden with tremor or too wild with dyskinesia to find the keys. Yet they do, and I go on writing.

And that’s not all I shouldn’t be doing. I shouldn’t be planning a bike ride for later today. I shouldn’t be walking my dogs down the steep hill to the creek, not to mention back up that hill. I shouldn’t be playing music with friends, nor gigging with our band in bars and at small festivals. I shouldn’t be cooking dinner for my wife, nor preparing for a trip to Patagonia. I shouldn’t be cleaning the deck as I get ready to re-stain it, and I sure shouldn’t be unloading breakables from the dishwasher and placing them high on their shelves. I shouldn’t be cleaning up by myself after a summer picnic for our support group. I shouldn’t be creating artwork for a gallery in town, nor proofing the manuscript for a new book.

I probably shouldn’t tempt fate by writing about all this, but, with lots of help and dumb luck, I’ve already beaten some grim odds..

What should I be doing?

By now, I should be flat on my back, choking on my aspirated saliva in a nursing home, unable to turn under my blankets. I should be forming bed sores vulnerable to infection. The Angel of Death is supposed to be hovering nearby on leathery wings, ready to punch my ticket to the afterworld on one of the next departing trains, seated between an eighty-year-old woman who died suddenly of a brain aneurism, and the fifty-wear-old guy with lung cancer. I should be pushing up the daisies, moldering in the grave, I should have gone West, joined my ancestors, bought the farm, cruised the River Styx, become one with eternity, passed on, made my final exit, shuffled off this mortal coil, my chips cashed in, I should be feeding the worms and meeting my maker.

Instead I’m marveling at the rare gift of a second chance, another stab at this life of ours. Life that is scary, exhausting, and over too quickly. And I’m giving thanks for all the good things large and small, which are a part of that life. Among those not-so-small things for which I’m grateful, one stands out. My doctor wasn’t merely ducking, he was telling the truth. When it comes to predicting how long a patient with Parkinson's Disease has, he was right. He’s always wrong. 

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"Peter Dunlap-Shohl is an NWPF blogger. Look for "My Degeneration" his graphic-novel style memoir of coping with Young-Onset Parkinson's Disease, to be published this October by Penn State Press
http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/browse.cfm/DunlaP
http://frozengrin.blogspot.com/
http://offandonakpdrag.blogspot.com/

 

Peter Dunlap-ShohlPeter Dunlap-Shohl
NWPF Blogger

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