Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I've Got a Life to Live

Diagnosed at 34

When I was 7 months pregnant with my third child, I started to notice some difficulty writing. The letters were crowded and small, and my fingers felt weak. My first thoughts were, “Was this pregnancy related? Maybe water retention was making my fingers stiff?” “Was it carpal tunnel syndrome?” After all, I had been a data enterer for the past six years. Being a full-time working mom of two young boys, I put this symptom on the back burner and concentrated on my busy life.
After my daughter was born, I went back to work and immediately became aware of the writing problem. I notified my boss who made arrangements for me to see a workers compensation doctor affiliated with my employer. After weeks of exams and physical therapy, there was no improvement. Over the next several months I continued to seek out answers. I consulted neurologists, rheumatologists, internal medicine specialists, and started a physical therapy program. My symptoms now included nerve and muscle pain in my wrists, elbow and shoulder on my right side. I was told I had everything from tendonitis to lupus. My neurologist at the time agreed to put me on temporary disability from my job while I tried to get an answer that made sense.
Finally one doctor suggested I make an appointment with the neurology department at UCLA for a consultation. After two and a half years of frustration, I was diagnosed in less than 15 minutes with early onset Parkinson’s disease. I had an answer, but what did this all mean? I drove home in tears wondering how I was going to break the news to my husband and mother.
Now looking back, 8 years later, I am in a much different place. After going through bouts of depression, experimenting with a variety of prescription drugs, and struggling with destructive side effects, I’ve connected with other PD patients, and have learned to live with something I have little control over. What I do have control over is my attitude and outlook. There are many things I can still do, although maybe in a different way. It’s still difficult to button a shirt, brush my teeth or keep up with my kids, but it’s not impossible. It would be easy to curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself but that would be giving up. I’m a mom, a daughter, a sister, and a friend, and there are people who love me and depend on me. I've got a life to live.

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