When life gives you lemons…
I recently went out to dinner with a friend and he and I were discussing our dads. For both of our fathers, life has taken an unexpected turn and has been a bumpier ride than expected. For my father, this bumpy ride started nine years ago with his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). For my friend’s father, life took a turn when a freak accident caused brain damage.
Let me tell you a little about PD. According to the National Parkinson’s Foundation, “Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. Most people’s symptoms take years to develop, and they live for years with the disease. In short, a person’s brain slowly stops producing a neurotransmitter called dopamine. With less and less dopamine, a person has less and less ability to regulate their movements, body and emotions. Parkinson’s disease itself is not fatal. However, complications from the disease are serious; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rated complications from PD as the 14th top cause of death in the United States.”
In case you skimmed all of that science-y stuff, here is the takeaway: PD is a slowly progressing disease where one looses control of muscle movements.
Alright, now that we are on the same page, follow me down this rabbit hole.
One of my favorite and least favorite questions to be asked is, “How is your dad doing?”
I love this question because it shows how much the asker cares for my dad and for me, but it is a hard question to answer. Being a people pleaser, I always want to tell them just what they want to hear. To proudly proclaim that, “He is doing great!” and that, “You can barely notice his symptoms!” But unfortunately this just isn’t the case.
Don’t get me wrong, my dad lives well with PD, but his symptoms will never get any better, they only get worse. This is why I hate Parkinson’s—because it is progressive. Each day it gets a little worst and each day is a little harder. My father’s body is betraying him. He is slowly stripped of his independence, his control, and his personality. Slowly, but surely, year by year.
The opposite was true for my friend’s father. His life changed in an instant. There was no slow onset of disease; in one day, in one moment, his father lost so much. Lost his independence to drive, to work, to read and write, and lost aspects of his personality. In one moment his father lost things that have taken nine years for my father to loose.
I realized then the thing I hated most about PD—that it is progressive—might actually be the best thing about PD. What before had seemed like a merciless, protracted, relentless death grip might really be the thing that makes this disease tolerable.
This slow progression of worsening symptoms allows my father and my family to acclimate. We have learned his struggles and we have adjusted accordingly. We have learned to park in the closest spot in the lot, to avoid staircases, and to keep the floors free of tripping hazards (hard with two dogs and a cat!). We have converted plates and dishes to plastic (less likely to break while washing). We were able to save money for a new car that that better accommodated my dad. We have researched speech therapies, join support groups, and undergone breakthrough surgeries. When the time comes, we will start the process of selling our two-story house, and purchase instead a one-story.
With Parkinson’s, we have time. Time to learn what works and what does not. Time to save money. Time to research all options. Time to makes changes. My friend and his father do not, and did not, have this. They do not have this luxury.
To my friend, thank you. Thank you for helping me understand. For helping me turn my ‘hate’ to ‘appreciate.’ For letting me learn that this is a blessing in disguise.
What hardships have you later found to be blessings? Let me know below.
5 thoughts on “Turning Hate into Appreciate”
I so enjoyed this post. I was diagnosed with PD in 2009. When I read this, it reminded me of something I write about a month ago. Blessings to your family.
The story is told….a man that had a movement disorder for many, many years maintained a spot on the ground next to a pond of water. It was widely known that from time to time, an angel would come by and stir the water. When the angel did this, the first sick person to enter the water was healed. The man could never get to the water fast enough. Someone else always got there before him.
One day Jesus walked up to the man with the movement disorder and asked him, “Do you want to be well?”
What a strange question to ask a sick person. Of course he wants to be well. I didn’t understand why Jesus asked the question until I got Parkinson’s.
For a year before I was diagnosed, most of the time I was miserable. I had gone from a very happy, content person to someone that felt depressed and filled with anxiety all the time for no reason. Years before I started to feel like this, I had gone through two terrible life events that would make anyone feel this way, but that had been many years before. Now life was great with a wonderful wife, three beautiful children, a job I loved,and a beautiful home. Life couldn’t have been any better, but I was miserable. I prayed and asked God constantly for relief, but none came. Then things started happening in my body. My left arm stopped swinging when I walked. My left hand would shake when I used it. My left wrist started to hurt. I lost my sense of smell. My voice started to change. I continued to ask God for relief, but none came.
Then one day I went to my doctor for my yearly checkup. Casually, he asked how I was. I told him about the things I was feeling. When I had finished, he looked at me and said,” It sounds like you have Parkinson’s Disease.” I walked out of his office stunned. Then I had a strange feeling, a feeling of relief and happiness. I had been suffering for no reason…. now there was a reason. All of the things that had tormented me turned out to indeed be the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. A week later, with some new knowledge and some pills, I was my old self again. Yes, it’s true I was my old self with Parkinson’s, but the suffering had stopped.
Now back to the strange question Jesus asked, “Do you want to be well?”
It’s been more than 4 years since I was diagnosed. I started out feeling like my old self, but over time the symptoms have changed and the Parkinson’s has progressed. The main way I have been able to live happy with this fact is to accept it. I try to do all I can to slow the progression, but I know it will continue to progress. For me to deny this would be much more difficult than acceptance. Also, I have been developing defenses to cope with this uninvited intruder. Right or wrong, with acceptance come familiarity. Although, I fight to keep Parkinson’s at bay, it has become one of the things that defines me.
There is a story of a man that spent almost all of his 60 years in prison. One day a parole board told him he was free to go. They opened the prison bars and released him into the free world. He spent the next week trying to find a way to get arrested again. He had come to the place that life behind bars was all he knew.
I don’t think I’m saying that if I wake up tomorrow without Parkinson’s Disease, I won’t know how to live without it. But I have adjusted to having it. A large part of my acceptance is that even if I am wrong and I am supposed to be healed, God still loves me and is my provider. He will never abandon me.
I do know that if it did go away, something else, maybe even worse, will eventually get me.
One more story;
A group of people were sitting on the floor in a circle. God told them to throw their biggest problem in life into the middle of the circle. They did. Then he told them they each must choose one problem from the middle. They could take any one of them. Each person took their own problem back.
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Hello, thank you so much for reading and commenting. Truly, thank you for opening yourself up and sharing those stores. I especially love the one you ended with, about taking back the cross you have already learned to bear. I am glad that you found some peace in your diagnosis and relief in your medication. I love that you have not only accepted, but adapted to your new lifestyle. It is a true strength of character. Wishing you, your wife, and children the best.
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