NWPF

PD Community BlogRead Blog

Controlled Flight into Terrain

Monday June 11, 2018

Controlled Flight into Terrain

The National Transportation Board has a phrase to describe pilot error as the cause of a plane crash: “Controlled flight into terrain.” It means the pilot was in control of the plane when the accident occurred, and the problem was not, say, mechanical malfunction or nasty weather.  Parkinson’s has long been the opposite, an uncontrolled descent into helplessness at the mercy of external forces that couldn’t be changed any more than you could alter the laws of gravity.

When I got my diagnosis 16 years ago, it was bleak. I tried to get my neurologist to tell me how long I had before incapacitation. After a few honorable attempts to dodge the answer, he finally came up with 10 to 15 years. Pitiful, no? I scoured the internet, desperate for anything that would make the timeline longer, and kept coming up against the same wall: progressive, disabling, incurable.

Even slowing the process down was off the table. This supplement or that diet might do the job, but nobody could say for sure. Possibly this medication? Well, maybe…There was nowhere to get leverage, nothing to grab hold of to prevent a slide into the abyss.

Today the landscape is different. There are now several clear ways for individual initiative to stretch out your downward path, to make the descent more gentle, to buy precious time before impact. Patients who exercise hard have been shown to do better over the course of their disease. Diet can also play a role. Earlier introduction of therapy, medicine or exercise can make the downward slide less steep. We still collide with the earth at some point, but for the first time in history, we have an iota of control over that fate.

Which begs a question: what is a few more months or even years when you are just putting off the inevitable? That is entirely up to you. Time is relative, and the value it has is the value you give it. The amount of time is not decisive when measuring a life. It’s how you use it while it’s yours to use. Mozart was one of the most distinguished composers of all time, and his work lives on with great popularity. He died at 35.

Most of us have a more humble agenda than Mozart. We want meaningful work,  a chance to hold our dear ones, to share a meal and a laugh with those we cherish. We want to watch our children grow. None of us have enough time to do this as we would like, not even the healthy among us. Even with all the precautions you can take, you could be carried off tomorrow by some unforeseen accident, or biological failing.

It could also go the other way. My great grandfather Charles was told by his doctor that he should put his affairs in order because he only had six months to live. He decided the the best thing he could do was sell his dry goods business and teach Sunday school. He ended up teaching Sunday school for the next 25 years. But I suspect that even that extra 25 years were not enough for Charles.

Ideally the solution would be to do as William Blake imagined: “To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity all in an hour.” Ideal, but for most of us, impossible. What is the best we can hope for? A controlled flight into terrain. And now, with the tools at our disposal such a mitigated disaster is an option for those of us with Parkinson’s. Pilot error here would be: Not to make the most of it.



Peter Dunlap-ShohlPeter Dunlap-Shohl
NWPF Blogger

Recent Posts

Parkinson's Pete Reviews "I Give My Eyes" by Brian Peterson
Board Spotlight on Elizabeth Keller
Who, What, When?
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Guitar Therapy

Archives

2018 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