Richards wife Rachel was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in Feb 2014 at the age of 44. However Rachel had been suffering from panic attacks and sore neck and back before this. Her left hand had also slowed down and her arm did not swing when walking. We were in total shock when we were told that she had PD as it wasn’t something either of us had considered.
We came out of the hospital feeling lost, confused and quite frankly scared to what it meant for the future. We chose not to tell our 12 year old daughter straight away as we both needed time to read up on it and digest it all. We wanted to feel emotionally stronger so as not to alarm her. This meant that initially we could only tell close family as we didn’t want her to find out from anyone else but us – which looking back was quite stressful.We eventually told her 6 months later and the questions she asked were: Are you going to die? Is it cancer? Am I going to get it? When we could say no to these questions she seemed to relax about it and take it in her stride as children do. We are very open about it now and she knows Rachel is slower at doing things and can’t always keep up with her.
The nice thing is that she has told her close friends and they are all cool about it. In fact one of her friend’s mums does reflexology and does her feet once a fortnight and refuses to take any money. That is probably the best bit – that people on the whole have been incredibly kind and helpful.
Rachel still works part-time. She told work the week she was diagnosed as she needed a few days off work to let the emotion out and in a way mourn life without PD. Her work has been great and are understanding if she need to switch her days. She can also start just after 9.00 – as she finds she is so much slower in the mornings!
Family life hasn’t changed dramatically – although I do help out more domestically (shopping, cleaning etc). We tend to deal with it through humour – I tease her that she can still play tennis but ‘conveniently’ finds it hard to do the ironing and change the duvet covers. As she says, you’ve got to have some perks to having PD!!
Rachel has not started taking medication yet. She is tackling her symptoms with diet, exercise and minimising stress. However she admits day to day activities are getting harder.
It is upsetting seeing my wife slow down and be labelled with an older person’s disease. She sometimes feel like she has bypassed middle age – especially when the average age of most PWP’s are at least 20 years her senior. She finds herself feeling jealous of fit and able pensioners – including her own parents!
We are still adjusting to the fact that the next half of our lives together will include PD (unless a miracle cure is found!) but one positive thing PD has given us so far is a greater empathy and appreciation of people facing adversity in whatever form and for those who are given the unplanned role of carer. Neither are chosen past times but as some doors close others open including new friendships and different challenges and opportunities.
As Michael J Fox says, it is the gift that keeps on taking .