Support Parkinson’s Disease

This September I will join 14,000 Canadians who take part in the Parkinson SuperWalk. It will be my second year participating in this great event.  Want to join me in the 10KM run?  No? How about supporting me with a donation?

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I will be running for the third time to support my mom.  This is her story.

As I creep past fifty I’m starting to think a bit more about aging. Frankly, I think I’ve aged pretty well (give or take a few crows feet). When I do think about aging, I tend to look to my parents. My mom and dad are 84 and 87 years old respectively. My dad has never let anything slow him down. Ever. My mom has slowed down a lot. She hasn’t had a choice. She has Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system with the most common symptoms being motor related. Shaking, rigidity, slowness and difficult walking. She is fighting it every step of the way but inevitably the disease progresses and life has to change.

She was diagnosed about 16 years ago, but honestly, it hasn’t been until the last two or three years that it has seriously affected her day to day life. At the beginning, the only noticeable symptom was a slight tremor in her left hand. When she originally told us I didn’t know much about the disease. All I could picture was Michael J. Fox, who I had seen interviewed on TV, who sometimes couldn’t control the tremors in his body, jerked violently and occasionally found it difficult to get a full sentence out. I was a bit freaked out. Fortunately, her symptoms were nothing like that. For a long time, to look at her, you wouldn’t even know she was sick. For many years she has been able to carry on with no noticeable changes to her life.

m&d wedding

Lately, though, I’ve noticed things have changed. A few month ago she was involved in a small car accident. My mom is no stranger to hitting things in her car but it has been mostly light poles and parking lot walls. There wasn’t much damage, nobody was hurt, but it was very obviously her fault. It was raining and there was a lot of traffic around. Her reactions are just not what they used to be. Fortunately, I happened to be driving by at the time and was able to help her with calling a tow truck and dealing with the other driver. She was a bit shaken and I’m pretty sure having me there was a huge help. Her biggest worry? ICBC might force her to take a road test. Losing her license would mean losing her freedom.

In the last three months she has needed to change from using a cane to using a walker. It may not seem like a big change to you and me, but to her it has been a huge adjustment. There have been a few falls leaving her bruised and sore so it really needed to be done. She had been using the cane to stand with both hands in front of her and her feet wide apart. Like a precarious tripod. We have always teased my mom that she was a bit like a weeble. You know, they wobble but they don’t fall down. Yes, it was kind of mean but she knew we were only joking and really she knew it was true. Mom wasn’t the most stable person to start with.

mom skiing

My mom was always active when we were younger. As a family we hiked, camped and skied a lot. Fitness wasn’t really a priority in the 70’s but I remember mom going to a fitness class at the local Y when I was little. Now she has a Life Call necklace that she wears all the time. It alerts a call board of she falls over. I know that she gets scared sometimes. She’s gotten better at asking for help. She’s come to the realization that there are some things she just can’t do. The biggest thing she now knows is that she can’t push herself. She has to make sure she is well rested to avoid the risk of injury.

So here I sit. An active fifty year old, with some extra time on my hands. For too many years I have THOUGHT about getting involved in the Parkinson’s Society. Work, kids, life…….excuses really. No more. My mission again this Fall is to find a way to give some time and energy to help people with Parkinson’s. To try and find a way to help people with Parkinson’s that maybe haven’t been as fortune as my mom. And who knows, maybe they will find a way to ease my mom’s symptoms too. The Best Thing in Life is being able to make a difference in something that matters to you, personally.

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A Shaky World

mom b&w

As I creep closer to fifty I’m starting to think a bit more about aging. Frankly, I think I’ve aged pretty well (give or take a few crows feet). When I do think about aging, I tend to look to my parents. My mom and dad are 82 and 85 years old respectively. My dad has never let anything slow him down. Ever. My mom has slowed down a lot. She hasn’t had a choice. She has Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system with the most common symptoms being motor related. Shaking, rigidity, slowness and difficult walking. She is fighting it every step of the way but inevitably the disease progresses and life has to change.

She was diagnosed about 15 years ago, but honestly, it hasn’t been until the last two or three years that it has seriously affected her day to day life. At the beginning, the only noticeable symptom was a slight tremor in her left hand. When she originally told us I didn’t know much about the disease. All I could picture was Michael J. Fox, who I had seen interviewed on TV, who sometimes couldn’t control the tremors in his body, jerked violently and occasionally found it difficult to get a full sentence out. I was a bit freaked out. Fortunately, her symptoms were nothing like that. For a long time, to look at her, you wouldn’t even know she was sick. For many years she has been able to carry on with no noticeable changes to her life.

m&d wedding

Lately, though, I’ve noticed things have changed. A few month ago she was involved in a small car accident. My mom is no stranger to hitting things in her car but it has been mostly light poles and parking lot walls. There wasn’t much damage, nobody was hurt, but it was very obviously her fault. It was raining and there was a lot of traffic around. Her reactions are just not what they used to be. Fortunately, I happened to be driving by at the time and was able to help her with calling a tow truck and dealing with the other driver. She was a bit shaken and I’m pretty sure having me there was a huge help. Her biggest worry? ICBC might force her to take a road test. Losing her license would mean losing her freedom.

In the last three months she has needed to change from using a cane to using a walker. It may not seem like a big change to you and me, but to her it has been a huge adjustment. There have been a few falls leaving her bruised and sore so it really needed to be done. She had been using the cane to stand with both hands in front of her and her feet wide apart. Like a precarious tripod. We have always teased my mom that she was a bit like a weeble. You know, they wobble but they don’t fall down. Yes, it was kind of mean but she knew we were only joking and really she knew it was true. Mom wasn’t the most stable person to start with.

mom skiing

My mom was always active when we were younger. As a family we hiked, camped and skied a lot. Fitness wasn’t really a priority in the 70’s but I remember mom going to a fitness class at the local Y when I was little. Now she has a Life Call necklace that she wears all the time. It alerts a call board of she falls over. I know that she gets scared sometimes. She’s gotten better at asking for help. She’s come to the realization that there are some things she just can’t do. The biggest thing she now knows is that she can’t push herself. She has to make sure she is well rested to avoid the risk of injury.

So here I sit. An active, almost fifty year old, with some extra time on my hands (given that the current teacher’s strike ends soon). For too many years I have THOUGHT about getting involved in the Parkinson’s Society. Work, kids, life…….excuses really. No more. My mission for this Fall is to find a way to give some time and energy to help people with Parkinson’s. To try and find a way to help people with Parkinson’s that maybe haven’t been as fortune as my mom. And who knows, maybe they will find a way to ease my mom’s symptoms too. The Best Thing in Life is being able to make a difference in something that matters to you, personally.

Sugar Free

no sugarIf at any time during this post something doesn’t quite make sense, I will be blaming it on my current state of deprivation. You see, I am trying to rid my body of some nasty stuff, so I am on a sugar free diet. No, that does not mean that I can have all the sugar free soda and sugar free gum I want. It means I can eat protein, vegetables, seeds and some nuts. Yup, that’s it. No, I’m not kidding. Basically nothing that has sugar in it or that my body would convert to sugar. No sugar, no wheat, no dairy, no wine. WHAT? No wine. I am so screwed. I can eat rice though? No? WTF?

I am not doing this by choice. Well, that’s not entirely true. I could choose to not do it and continue to feel horrible and have weird arbitrary symptoms pop up every few weeks, but is that really an option? So, I have decide to heed the advice of my naturopath and change my ways. A few years ago I would have laughed at you if you said I should see a naturopath. My godmothers husband was a naturopath of sorts. He would wave a crystal attached to a string over people’s nail clippings and tell them what was wrong with them. So my perception of the field was a bit skeptical. I have, however, discovered that there are certain areas of health and well being that are better served by a different approach.

A couple of years ago I was feeling really run down. I wasn’t sleeping well, I felt nauseated in the mornings (nope, not that) I was anxious, not really sick but always just on the brink, chronic cold sores and my running ability was seriously going to the dogs. I went to my regular doctor and he said I should start on anti-depressants. “But, I’m not depressed”. I said. ” I know, but it might help anyway”. Really? How could it help? I’d feel like crap but I’d be happy? I left hos office feeling really disappointed in a man who I had trusted with the health of my family for years. I’ve since realized that there are some things that he is great for and some things that he is not. Conventional medicine is pretty black or white. You are sick or you aren’t. You have this or you have that. Not a lot of room for anything else.

So over the past couple of years I have explored some alternative ways of dealing with my overall health. This time around I have discovered that I can most likely deal with my current symptoms with changing my diet. I will admit that I have been hard on my body. I don’t have a high pressure job, but my husband travels a lot and I have had to hold down the fort (with kids in it) after a day of work on many occasions and weekends. I’m not a hard partier, but I like my wine. I’m not a marathon runner, but I do push myself physically. Running is my stress relief but I now know that running itself puts stress on your body. I’m not a junk food person but there have been times (I’m not proud of them) when I have been known to eat Nutella by the spoonful. There is said it. If you add all this up and on top of it put about eighteen months of a truly stressful time in my recent life, you could see how my body could be saying “Enough, I am done.” And that is what it has done.

Now, how to reverse the damage? Cut out all sugar from my diet for a minimum of one month. Just as a note to anyone doing this. Do NOT watch the Food Network. It will make you crazy. Take probiotics every day to restore the good things that should be in my body. Take it easy. That one is easier said than done for me. I have a run coming up in four weeks that will involve me running three legs of two hundred mile relay. I at least need to be able to do that.

So here I sit munching on buckwheat crackers trying not to think about cupcakes and sushi and anything with cheese in it and resisting the urge to lace up my runners. I have learned to embrace coconut flour, coconut oil and coconut milk as alternatives to many things. My trip to Whole Foods yesterday involved a good deal of time wandering the aisles searching for suitable foods. I have to say, they do make it fairly easy to find good, albeit pricey, products. Did you know that some people eat like this all the time. By choice. At the end of the day The Best Thing in Life is my health so I guess that I am now one of those people living this way by choice.