I first noticed something was wrong with the left side of my body when I was at a 50s summer concert with my wife Donna. We were holding hands and she noticed my hand tremor; she asked me about it and I blew it off and told her that it happened once in awhile. She then convinced me to go to a neurologist who sat me down and asked me questions and had me do some fine motor skills with my hands and walk away from him down a hall. After this he told me I had symptoms of Parkinson’s one of which was infrequent eye blinking; as he was talking to me he counted how many times I blinked my eyes during our conversation and I didn’t blink as much as I should. I then decided to keep it a secret from work and co-workers afraid I would lose my job because of it. The only ones I let know were my kids, immediate family, and a couple of close friends.
I felt so guilty because my wife had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and I didn’t want her to be worrying about me. My wife took the proactive approach and started researching Parkinson’s, whereas I was trying to bury my head and not think about it. My wife then found a neurologist that specialized in Parkinson’s that was in our area (there aren’t many in NJ, most are in New York City). She is a perfect match for me and my wife; she was very easy going and very positive that Parkinson’s could be controlled with medication and exercise. She has grey long curly hair with glasses and looks like a 60’s child. She told me I could call any time I had any questions – something you don’t hear from to many doctors. I never took her up on yet, but I may as I get worse.
Since I was diagnosed, my daughter Courtney became a speech pathologist, which has come in handy because my voice has become affected. She got me involved in a program at Montclair State University, where she supervises graduate students who are becoming speech pathologists. I do voice exercises with clinicians that are students that are supervised by speech pathologists. I like interacting with the students. I also started doing Yoga with my daughter, which helps me with my flexibility. My daughter has also gotten my wife and I to exercise more by joining a gym together, which we are enjoying. Thanks Court!
I feel the biggest thing about Parkinson’s that affects me now is that I feel that everyone is looking at me when I’m doing things, such as when I’m putting on coats and I struggle to get my arms in. When walking, I have to over exaggerate my walk so that I don’t shuffle my feet. And when I’m eating, I feel everyone is looking at me struggling to get food on my fork. Also when I try to get money out of my pocket or my wallet. And before Parkinson’s I never thought twice about people looking at me and now I feel self-conscious. I also worry that I won’t be able to do things with my grandchildren (when the day comes) that I did with my kids. My wife, kids, friends and I try to laugh a lot about my shaking and things I do; one of my friends even nicknamed me “slim shaky.” And that was my team name at two Parkinson’s walks in Central Park. Thanks to my wife, kids, and friends for all your support.