I once asked a very honest friend “what do I look like?” “What do you mean, what do you look like?” was her response. “ I mean do I look like a woman with a disability?” “Yes Carol, you look like a 50 something-year-old woman with Parkinson’s Disease.”
I feel as if I have aged more in the past ten years than the calendar or mirror should show. Having a scapegoat in Parkinson’s Disease doesn’t make me feel any better. Let me tell you what has changed in this once trim athletic clear skinned girl. I gained 50 pounds. My blue eyes seem to be sinking back into my head and are often reddened as I seem to have developed allergies to just about anything I put on my face. My once blonde hair is darkening and thinning. My skin is riddled with age spots, middle-aged freckles, moles and those funny patches of discolored skin that came on with the entacapone and amantadine and just never went away. I concentrate to take big steps and to stand tall as my body wants me to shuffle around with a slight bend in my neck and upper spine.
What do I look like? A sixty-something-year-old woman with Parkinson’s Disease.
Last Sunday we rode our tandem up the Yakima River Canyon on a fundraiser for Crime-Stoppers. At the halfway point we took a short break before heading down the canyon on the second half of the ride. Chatting with other riders is always fun, and we were notable in our “brain” helmet covers and asked to pose for pictures. One woman stayed close by as Charlie and I mounted Grepedo. Just as we started to leave she took a step closer and said: “We are proud of you?” At first, I thought proud of us, why? Then it hit me. I saw myself as the stoker on a green tandem bike. She saw me as the sixty-something woman with Parkinson’s Disease.
The reality is I have Parkinson’s. I look like I have Parkinson’s, whether I want to or not. I can only change a few of the things about me as the disease progresses. My attitude towards the disease is one thing I have control over.
My only option is to let my Parkinsons shine. If I can make even strangers proud, well heck, let me flaunt it!