Inside the Park brings together one of my favorite things (sports) with one of my least favorite things – Parkinson’s Disease or as I call it “The Park.”
Why “The Park?” No, it’s not like a pleasant stroll through a park. Definitely not like that. Instead, trying to move with Parkinson’s is often a bit like trying to drive when your car is stuck in park.
Some people call Parkinson’s a snowflake disease because those of us experiencing this challenge all have different symptoms, different reactions to treatments and different progressions. I prefer to call it “The Park” because those of us with it usually get to play in a gym class, our journeys are sometimes like walking in circles on a path at a park. We go down a path hoping for improvement and end up back where we started.
We go down a path hoping for improvement and end up back where we started.
At first, there are plenty of trees to hide behind. But like a real park, once you are there long enough, it is hard to hide. Everyone knows where the trees are. We become experts of acceptable fidgeting and stretching. We can even pull ourselves together for a short while and then rest from the exhaustion later. Eventually, we run out of hiding places, and symptoms of The Park can no longer be hidden.
Please don’t misunderstand; I am not complaining. The Park has some sunshine mixed into the clouds. We can manage our daily tasks at least for a while; research is going strong; and surgical procedures are improving. I can think of a hundred diseases that are worse, but the long-term outlook of having The Park is still scary – tremors, falling, trouble with voice and swallowing, hallucinations, fatigue, cramps, stiffness . . . and a lot more.
I think the hardest thing is accepting that daily life will likely get tougher. We can “delay the disease” with exercise and get treatments, but ultimately the result is status quo or decline. There will be swings as we try new medications. There will be slides as the disease progresses. Sometimes it will seem like we are on a merry-go-round, just going in circles.
However, there are certain dreams we have to give up – not dreams like playing centerfield for the Indians – but realistic dreams we put off – thinking we had time. The Park is with me; it will always be with me.
Time to put on those boxing gloves and fight. For us, we fight for a draw, and that is our victory. I do not like settling for a draw; I like winning. That’s our world with The Park. When I realized that, it became a lot less frustrating. Maybe John Cooper was right when he called Ohio State’s tie with Michigan a great victory – with The Park a tie can be a great victory.