July 14, 2015: Perspective

~by Louis Templeman

Today I went with my wife to a Parkinson’s Symposium. It was a 4 ½ hour event held in conference rooms at a local Marriott’s. My guess is there were 200 people there: Parkinson’s patients, caregivers and professionals in the medical field who are working to improve their lives. Some of the speeches were highly technical and others were on a lay level and often entertaining. Strangely enough I found myself becoming very emotional at odd moments as I sat in various seminars.

I think my sense of denial is rather strong. I have faced the fact of my diagnosis, but somehow I hoped I had, maybe, “Parkinson’s Lite”. But no, it was hammered home: this is a game changer. For the past couple of years since I have retired I have had what seemed a dream come true. I have a comfortable little home with no mortgage where I am entirely comfortable. I have a surprising new life with a brand new wife – who is an old friend and a new love. Most of the challenges I was facing were things I could handle with one hand tied behind my back. This seminar opened my eyes to the truth that I will need to untie that hand and come up with stamina, engagement, confidence and a willingness to reach out for help. Thus, some of the tears.

Aside from embracing this sober reality I also found myself inspired by others for their courage, creativity, willingness to work and determination to make life good. Life may be touched by Parkinson’s but it need not be defined by Parkinson’s. A good friend of mine told me he was worried that I was beginning to define myself by my diagnosis. What I encountered at this seminar echoed his concern. I was taken by a statement made by the keynote speaker. “The choice before us is to Give Up or Get Back Up. “ And so, some more tears, from the inspirational nature of the lives before me and for the daunting challenges I am facing.

In one of the seminars, Dr. Michelle Prosje discussed the diminished cognitive capacity most of us will eventually experience. The refreshing news was she offered strategies to face them. The lazy, fearful side of me does not want to study the disease, but that would be giving up. Prosje showed that for nearly every phase of the progression of this disease there are get-back-up strategies. This will require work but that is what I need to know and what I need to do.

The final cause for my emotional response to the seminar was the inspirational examples of the people who were further down the road than I am. I met Sly at the conference. My experiences pale when compared to his. He has had symptoms for less than two years. His issues could fill pages with complaints and fears. I could come up with a decent paragraph, and I have had symptoms for nearly five years. He went to doctor after doctor and could not get a reasonable diagnosis. Four months ago he found a Neurologist, who made the diagnosis and explained everything to him. His physician is not networked to the people who offer the monthly support group and arrange for such events as the seminar. He found it by accident and was ecstatic to be there, where he could find companionship, and help to stand against the downward pull for the disease.

Perception can change everything. It can inspire and calm fears. It rarely comes when one is isolated and brooding. I found courage and hope by mingling with others who share my situation and who have chosen to get back up.

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Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

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