It has been a few months since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the early age of 60. Mine is actually considered to be early-onset because my symptoms of muscle stiffness and pain began about five years ago. My neurologist says that if everyone lives to be old enough, everyone will have some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
I am surprised like a few other people have been, because I have done so much to stay healthy. As a registered nurse, I do know that there are many other diagnoses much, much worse. I have done a little bit of grieving and I am working with my constant observations on how my condition affects my daily life. Somehow I manage to go to bed feeling grateful every night. That doesn’t stop me from being frustrated many times during the day.
What I want to talk briefly about is how glad I am that I started dancing Hula about 10 years ago. Movement specialists have since told me how important it was for my brain, for me to have started moving in a complex manner to musical rhythms. Memorizing the steps, moving asymmetrically, synchronizing movement to a beat, and moving my feet in a non-habitual manner all utilize different parts of the brain. This allows for collaboration of the different brain centers to work in a compensatory manner for the basal ganglia whose functions have been slowly deteriorating.
I highly recommend some sort of dance or movement to music for everyone. Even if you cannot stand up and have to do it in a chair lying in bed. It seems to bring joy and a sense of liveliness into a routine that is all about slowing down. Don’t overthink it. In fact, make a point of not thinking at all. Give your brain a rest from thinking. It has other things to do.
When I last visited my Neuro- chiropractor this month, I said I was feeling a little depressed because I was anticipating him telling me how my disease was progressing. He gently chided me for being too analytical about that and told me to just live my life to the best of my ability and enjoy it. I have vowed to do just that. Which includes learning what it is to be part of your grandchildren’s life. Aloha aku. Aloha mai. Aloha e (Love given, Love received, Love).