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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 30, 2010. Look at me, I can be Centerfield!

So much of our well being is in our head. I went to the Gym today. I worked out with my therapist/trainers. These are wonderful, intuitive professional people. They know that i react differently with a ball in my hands. Part of the session is tailored to that. I can walk in dragging my feet, but let me throw a ball and I'm taken back to a place that I loved. It then makes the subsequent exercises that much easier.

Today, on the drive there, I was a Parkinson's patient. When I left, I felt differently. My walking was better, my driving was better. Some of this is the adrenaline, but a firmly believe that some of this is an attitude change that I get from throwing a ball.

Michael J. Fox plays hockey. Muhammed Ali works on the speed bag. Their Parkinsons has progressed far more than mine. What they have in common is attitude. They are both very positive people.

So all I have to say is, "Put me in Coach. I'm ready to play today."

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 29, 2010. I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now!

There is a different perspective on life, being more a Pedestrian, and less a driver.

Forest Hills has a high population of elderly. All things considered, I still walk faster than most people. I have difficulty making it across Queens Boulevard in one light cycle. How do the elderly do it? The cars don't wait. They're honking their horn the second that the light changes. Driver's Education must now teach that that red and white octagonal sign doesn't mean stop, it means "roll through and curse at the Pedestrian."

Today, as I was entering the Subway at Continental and Queens, there was an elderly man climbing the steps the other way. People behind him were delayed. One young lady was flailing her arms, in obvious frustration. Five years ago I could have acted like that girl. Five years from now I could be that Gentleman.

How long did that flight of steps actually delay this girl? 10 seconds? How long does it take to actually stop at the stop sign?

There are benefits to having more difficulty in day to day life. You begin to appreciate what others go through. Making it only natural to make their lives less difficult.

November 29, 2010. In My Father's Eyes

I was first diagnosed with PD when I was 49. At the time, my wife and I decided to keep it quiet. My father was ill, and we felt that it would have been too much for my folks to handle at that time.

My folks had always been an integral part of my life. Not sharing this with them was difficult, but was part of the continuing process of growing up. i spent most of my Sunday mornings the next two years visiting my Dad. At first I would drive into Manhattan. Later, when I became uncomfortable driving in the City, I would take the bus. By that time I had told my folks.

With my father ill, and my future unsure, I was depressed. I didn't concentrate on my business. The coinciding with the worst economy in 70 years spelled near disaster.

My wife, far wiser than I, saw the future. She realized that my days of a 50 mile round trip commute were over, so she exercised insider rights given to us to purchase another unit in our building, and convinced me that we should purchase a studio apartment. My office is now on the 17th floor, my apartment on the 10th. An easy commute.

My friends on the Island also allowed me to use their offices. These offices are near the Long Island Railroad so it's also an easy commute.

I have and have always had bad work habits. I'll work for 20 minutes, walk around the office and "kibitz" for 10 minutes and back to work. The problem arose, who do I "kibitz" with on the 17th floor? The answer arose, The internet. I started to reconnect with old friends. One day around that time I woke up. The depression was just a waste of time.

I continued to spend my Sunday Mornings with my Dad. My dad was a special man. The most educated, informally educated man that I've ever met. He could have been, and in his own way was, a brilliant engineer.

Although Dad sold sporting goods, he never was a sports fan, but his two sons were. So dad would take us to the Garden to see the Rangers. 17,000 people would be screaming. Dad would be snoring. He wake up and say, "That was a great play." my brother would say, "Dad, that's the Zamboni." The story is not completely true. However as they said in, "The Man who shot Liberty Valance," "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

I miss my Dad. I wouldn't have given up those last two years of visits for anything.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28, 2010. Go Ask Alice.

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
(White Rabbit, by Grace Slick, 1967)

I'm not somebody who likes taking drugs. I've been drunk once in my life. That was 1981, Simon and Garfunkel in Central Park. I smoked pot, maybe 5 times. Decided that I was acting ridiculous, and never did it again. I have never held a conventional cigarette in my hands, let alone my mouth. My drug of choice was always chocolate.

So now as I line up my prescriptions in the morning, the thought goes through my mind, do I really need these?

The first prescription that I had was for Mirapex. This was to control the very slight tremor that I had in my hand and the more prominent tremor in my legs. Mirapex has been known to have many side effects. The most serious is obsessive behavior. People have claimed to develop serious gambling habits on Mirapex. I have notice some obsessions. I nosh (snack for all of you unfamiliar with everyday Yiddish), far too much.

Mirapex also causes some people to act out their dreams. It's dangerous for me, since I dream predominantly about sports. As I've already stated, I've slid into bases, taken jump shots and shot a hockey puck in my sleep.

Mirapex also makes one sleepy, so I've avoided raising the dosage. About 3 years ago, I started taking an Israeli drug called Azilect. I was told that it had incredible results with no known side effects. The results were very good and until I researched this I was unaware of any side effects. My right eye tears quite a bit and I get neck pains. I just learned that these can be caused by the Azilect.

In addition to those medications, I now take what is considered to be "the gold standard," for Parkinson's patients Sinemet. It has done wonders. Except for increase sleepiness, I've notice no side effects. However, the side effects don't necessarily occur quickly. Increased dosages of this drug, which becomes needed, because it wears off earlier as time goes on, can cause Dyskenesia, or involuntary movements. These movements are what Rush Limbaugh, ignorantly, mocked, when describing Michael J. Fox.

So for somebody who hates medications, although I don't feel like I'm addicted, I am dependent. It's been nearly 5 years since I've gone a day without medication. The question occurs to me, "Do I even know what the side effects are, or do I need somebody who has known and seen me prior to taking these drugs, to tell me if they've affected my behavior?"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

November 27, 2010, Love and Other Drugs

I went to see a movie today. It's the first movie that I've seen in the theater in about two years. A few years ago I would have had no interest in this movie. It's the first movie that a major character has Parkinsons.

The movie centers around a Drug Salesman (Jake Gyllenhaal) who falls for a young woman (Anne Hathaway) who is going through, what is described as "Stage 1" Parkinsons. I've never heard the disease referred to in stages before, but it makes sense. The sub plot about the Viagra sales, except for the gratuitous sex (which I am in favor of), was relatively entertaining. However, had that been the gist of the movie, I would have already forgotten about it.

The important part, and the reason that I went was Maggie (Hathaway), a 26 woman inflicted with PD. She obviously did some research into the part, because she played the part without being "over the top."

As someone inflicted with this disease I found three poignant scenes:

1) When she describes to a new doctor all of the tests that she had gone through before they settle upon the diagnosis. I was tested for Carpal Tunnel, Brain Tumor even bone chips in my elbow, before the correct diagnosis;

2) Her frustration with the inability to open a packet of pop tarts;

3) A group meeting of PD patients, where the very convincing character speak with humor, about their struggles with daily activities.

For me there were a few very painful moments in the movie. This was mainly because I found her character very realistic.

I went to the movie alone. Didn't even tell my wife what I was seeing. I suppose that the reason for this was I didn't know how it would affect me. It's not for all who suffer, but I'm glad that I saw it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

November 25, 2010. Warning, Danger, Will Robinson!

I was never one for routines. So how come, now at almost 54, my days have begun to mirror themselves?

Every morning I walk or take the Subway to Austin Street to the same coffee shop/bakery, sit in the same chair and order the same thing. I've become a sober character from Cheers. It's funny because this place is like Cheers. The same colorful characters come in everyday. They're as strange and presumably lonely as the characters on Cheers.

I sit there, in this place "where everybody knows your name," and listen to the guy who spends all of his spare time phoning sports talk radio, to the elderly man who knows what the President need to do to fix the economy, to the Rabbi who conducts an adult education class about Judaism there and many others.

When the strange ones are there the waitress signals me by saying, "Warning, Danger, Will Robinson!"

I expect someday soon that I'll walk in the crowd will shout "Marc!" A waitress will say, "What are you up to Mr. Sherman?" And I will have to say, just like Norm, "My ideal weight, if I were 8 feet tall."

Questions abound me! Do we all fall into routines? Is this a function of comfort or age? Does the PD keep me from venturing beyond my universe? Would I go elsewhere if not for the great Cappuccino muffin? Do you want fries with that? Is it OK to kiss on the first date?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 24, 2010

Am I getting spiritual is my old age? To me religion has merely been a punch line. The only time that I can ever remember seriously asking for help from a greater power was when I was in a multi car accident on the Grand Central Parkway. At that time I figured, "it couldn't hurt."

The whole thought of an invisible man in the sky, I find incomprehensible. Yet I find a spontaneous explosion equally incomprehensible. Don't get me wrong, I'm not like Mickey Mantle, who after a life of heavy drinking and womanizing found God on his deathbed. I would say that my thoughts are similar to Woody Allen's thoughts, "I'm what you'd call a teleological, existential atheist—I believe that there's an intelligence to the universe, with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey."

Why these spiritual thoughts today? Because it's Thanksgiving, and I have a lot to be thankful for. My wife who looks after me, when I refuse to look out for myself. My father, who although gone these past two years, is with me at all times. My Mother, who installed in me a sense of family. My brother and sister, who are my best friends.

I can barely run, walking is a struggle at times, but I've got more to be thankful for than to be angry about.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November 23, 2010

For those of you younger than 45, I think that I should explain the title to the blog, "But This is the Hand that I shoot with." It's me remembering a line wrong from "Blazing Saddles." "Blazing Saddles" is widely considered one of the funniest movies ever made. Clevon Little plays Bart, Gene Wildler is The Waco Kid.

Bart: (disbelieving) The Waco Kid. He had the fastest hand in the West.
The Waco Kid: In the world.
Bart: Well, if you're the Kid, then show me something.
The Waco Kid: Well, maybe a couple of years ago, I could have shown you something, but today, look at that. (He holds up his right hand - and it is steady without shaking)
Bart: Steady as a rock.
The Waco Kid: Yeah, but I shoot with this hand. (His left hand shakes wildly)

I've often used this gag when I discuss my Parkinsons.

It makes me laugh. My choice is either be depressed or make jokes. I choose to make jokes.

It may be a defense mechanism, but it keeps me from being morose and in turn making others morose.

Everybody has difficulties that they deal with. Some deal with them better than others. I see no problem talking about your problems, if that is what you choose to do, without complaining about them.

I love humor. I can watch The Marx Brothers, Sid Caesar, Chaplin over and over again. At my lowest moments they can snap me out of it. Laughter is a great cure.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 20, 2010

When did my PD start?

Nobody knows. The first signs that there was definitely something wrong came about a year and one half prior to being diagnosed. That evidenced itself, in of all places, my handwriting. My penmanship, which was bad to begin with, got progressively smaller. This, I later learned is a common symptom for people with PD called micrographia.

What caused this?

Again nobody knows. Sure they can give the chemical answer that "Parkinson's disease is caused by the progressive impairment or deterioration of neurons (nerve cells) in an area of the brain known as the substantia nigra." Say that to me and I say that, "I thought that it was because I had an overextended Humperdink that rubbed against my Frumpsh." It has no meaning to me.

Is it hereditary? In rare cases. Not in mine. I know of no blood relatives who have had the disease.

My physical therapist, thinks that a car accident that I had when I was 25 may have been partially to blame. I'm not convinced.

When I look back now, I was always unusually stiff and clumsy. Is there a possibility that I've always had the disease? Nobody has convinced me otherwise.

Parkinson's strikes one side first. Mine was my right side. Since I am extremely dominant right handed, I'm not sure we would have diagnosed it yet had it been my left side.

What lies ahead, is retraining my brain. "My brain: it's my second favorite organ." (Woody Allen, Sleeper, 1973). I can still do most things, however my brain just doesn't know it. (Feel free to put in punchlines).

When my Doctor diagnosed me, all that I knew about the disease was that Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali and Janet Reno all suffered from it. I asked my Doctor, "What's the Prognosis?" I don't remember his exact answer, but I do remember thinking that it isn't fatal and the course is unknown.

Friday, November 19, 2010

November 19, 2010

I went back to the Gym today. The Gym that I use is associated with New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), and is situated on their beautiful campus on the Northern Boulevard in Old Westbury. The Gym is used by Parkinson's patients and the Physical Therapists are experts on Parkinson's Disease. They are also wonderful people! I've come to count them among my friends.

I've spent my life doing the least possible. I was a very bright, but very lazy student. Although I always played hard, I never prepared. Never stretched, always pulled muscles. So it's no surprise to me that I've been remiss in my exercise.

My therapists tailor part of the session to my talents. I tap a basketball against the wall, as if I were tipping in a rebound. I also throw a ball against a "pitchback." When I do these activities, I don't have Parkinson's Disease. Whether it's adrenaline or "muscle memory," I feel like that kid in the playground. What a wonderful feeling.

I don't envy kids today. I grew up in a young neighborhood. The weather warmed and we would get as many as possible for softball. It cooled down out came the football, the basketball and my favorite, my hockey stick. Today kids play video games on "playdates." Mention stickball and you get a blank stare. Gone are the sandlots. Part of the blame is greed.

I loved baseball. First came watching, then playing it. In 1965, I ran home from school to see Sandy Koufax pitch in the World Series. The game lasted a little more than 2 hours, leaving time for my friends and me to play ball.

If a Jewish kid from Brooklyn can make it, why not one from Queens? I was almost 9. My older brother who was 13, would tell me to watch his curveball, "It falls off the edge of a table!" He was right, it did. Today the series starts at 8:00 P.M. Because of the way that the game has changed, it invariably lasts almost 4 hours. Nine year olds can't stay up for that, and are missing, what I consider cherished memories.

The Jewish Kid from Queens never followed in Koufax's footsteps. This is something that can't be blamed on laziness, I wasn't that good. Though for about 10 minutes today, in the Gym, I was Koufax. I was again that little boy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November 17, 2010

It's been a rough couple of days. Walking can be strenuous. A slightly hunched over position causes a pain in my neck. Added to that, I may carry 6 or 7 files, along with my laptop in my backpack.

I've also been terribly remiss about attending Physical Therapy. I've been weighing the balancing the benefits of the physical therapy against the lost time at work. I chose poorly. I'm back at the Gym this Friday.

Aging is a funny thing. When we're young we absorb almost anything we're taught. I had an almost photographic memory. I could take copious notes, rewrite them, and the entire semester would be memorized. The shutter is now broken on this photographic memory. That's is more a function of age.

Math came easy to me. The employees at my Dad's store would test me on double digit multiplication. I was could do it faster, in my head, then they could do it on a calculator. That also may be a function of age.

Not everything is more difficult. I'm a far better writer now. I also enjoy that a lot more. I'll get some strange idea in my head, and let it take it's own course. What caused this? I think that it is a lack of inhibition that comes from age and mortality.

How life has changed! Just 5 years ago, I was driving more than 30,000 miles a year. Now I'm avoiding driving. Living in New York makes this adjustment a minor inconvenience.

What I do miss is the Theater. It's difficult sitting still for 3 hours in a cramped seat. At a sporting event I can always get up and walk around. I don't have that option in the Theater.

As I wrote the last sentence I felt embarrassed. How little appreciation am I showing of my lot in life, if my biggest complaint is that I miss the Theater. One of my goals for the upcoming year is to learn to keep things in perspective.

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15, 2010

If there is a bright side to this ailment, I think for me it is for me, that I'm in many ways happier than I've been throughout my adulthood.

During my twenties and thirties I was often sullen and moody. I never realized how lucky I was.

With Parkinson's came a catharsis. At first I was depressed, but one day I snapped out of it. I suddenly realized that it was a waste of time.

There is a line in Bernard Malamud's The Natural, "We have two lives... the life we learn with and the life we live after that. Suffering is what brings us towards happiness." For the most part I agree. However "the life we learn with" never ends.

Today, as you can tell is a good day. I'm going to take advantage of it.

November 14, 2010

Recently when asked to describe PD, I said, " it's like Viagra having the desired effect on every other part of your body, except where it is aiming." That's a bad day. On a good day, I hardly notice the disease.

My dad lived his last 50 years with chronic Chron's Disease. He never complained. If the disease progresses, I hope to follow his example. Although I'm the least spiritual person that you'll ever know, I know somehow he'll let me know if I screw up. Whenever I see an old Schwinn Bike (Dad sold Schwinns) I feel like he's sending me a message. It's a comforting feeling.

I was advised that I would experience certain effects as the disease progressed. One of them is a general slowness. It takes about 20 minutes longer to get ready in the morning I eat slower, I walk slower, I type slower. It's not always bad. There are certain things, that are best when done slower. For just a moment there, many women were having a fantasy about me. I knew that this day would finally come. It wasn't easy being a stud, when nobody else knew about it!

I do digress!!

Back to the premise. I give each and every one of you the license, to tell me to count my blessings, if ever I start to complain.

November 7, 2010

There is a constant debate in life, as to what is more important, the quantity of life or the quality of life.

The caretaker, more often than not female, therefore smarter and more logical than the afflicted party, will always choose quantity. The afflicted party, more often that not male, will invariably choose quality.

My wife is wiser and smarter than I am. But I have more fun.

I should realize that my reckless behavior will have more of a deleterious affect upon her than it does upon me. Ergo, my behavior is selfish.

Early New Years resolution, look in the mirror, you're not 25 anymore, so don't act it.

October 31, 2010

I was never a great athlete. I wasn't particularly agile. I never understood how someone could bounce a ball and run at the same time. I was also ridiculously slow. A friend used to say, "When Marc runs, it appears as if he's running under water." i used to say, "When I run, somebody starts a telethon."

What I lacked in agility and speed, I compensated for in strength and intelligence. I was a big kid, and strong as an Ox. In Basketball and Hockey, nobody could budge me. I also acknowledged my limitations and employed my assets.

At nearly 54 I don't expect The Knicks or The Yankees to call, but I am having difficulty accepting the fact that the simple walks, that I used to cherish, are getting to be a struggle. My mind says "Yes.' My back and my legs say "No." I pushed it the last two days. I avoided the subway and walked. I stop often. I'm tired.

My mind is still very clear, yet very different, then it once was. Strange stories lived in my "Walter Mitty" existence, but I was too inhibited to reveal them. Now, whether due to the disease, the prescriptions, or my age, I write these stories. Some people like them, some just tell me they like them, some don't understand them. I write for myself. It's a form of therapy. I also love inviting people into my strange world.

It's sometimes hard to accept that tomorrow won't be as good as today, but there is no other choice. I was dealt this hand. Most have been dealt a far worse hand than I have. So I'll live with it as what it is, an inconvenience, nothing more!

August 25, 2010

This is a strange disease. There is absolutely no pain, yet it's a struggle to do the everyday activities, that once came so naturally.

First of all, my inner thermometer is out of whack. On Humid days, like today, I'm likely to go through the "flop sweats." The water will pour out of me like a faucet that can't be shut. Now there are three of you lovely ladies, who in our younger days dated me. Now aren't you upset that you don't get to live with this?

Sometimes it's a struggle to walk the streets of Forest Hills. They got rid of the Forest, but left the Hills. I sometimes rest in MacDonald Park. I wonder if, to paraphrase Woody Allen, I'm going to become one of those old men who sit in the park and scream about communism?

I still look at it as an inconvenience. I have to. I've been through the period of depression, and it's a waste of time. Once it's over you've accomplished nothing and you're back where you began.

I want to be able to do just what I've always done. I want to swing a bat, catch a ball, take a jump shot (even if it is with a 1 inch vertical leap), take my walks in Central Park. Last Fall and Spring the sweats went away. I hope that they do again this fall.

Somebody commented today about my joking about the PD. I have to. I'm happiest when I laugh or make somebody else laugh. I'm not blind to what may happen, but so far it's progressed very slowly. So I'm going to go on, and you will be my audience (or victims) for my jokes, my puns an occasional limerick, and the rants of a curmudgeon.

August 17, 2010

I am 53 years old. . I am someone who loved childhood, and in a sense, never really left it. Which may be why I love facebook so much, it gives me a chance to reconnect with those friends who made my childhood so special. About 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I knew nothing about the disease.

The first signs were micrographia (small writing). My handwriting became progressively smaller, and more and more illegible. Then I had difficulty grasping fine objects, such as a pen or a fork. My right leg would be uncomfortable when I sat for long periods of time. Finally I went to a neurologist. He ordered an MRI of my brain. Before anyone else can say this, I'll beat you to the punch, they found nothing. So he sent me to a Parkinson's specialist, initially just to eliminate it.

The specialist, who is still my Doctor, recognized the classic signs of early Parkinson's. The masked face, walking with the arm limp by my side, difficulty rising from a seat. Parkinson's commonly hits one side. Mine hit my right side. Had it hit my left side, I'm not sure that we'd have known it for years.

Along with regular visits and prescriptions, he sent me to physical therapy. Two of my therapists, are facebook friends. These are special people. They kick my butt (when I show up), they don't believe my bullshit, and the genuinely care. I consider them friends.

My colleagues (those that know) and my ex-office mates have been great. I had to move my office into my home. My friends allow me to use their office, they give me overflow work, and often wait around to drive me to the train. My ex-officemates, when they moved, took my name with them. They also gave me keys to the new office and make me feel like I'm still at home. Anybody who knows me, knows that I love to talk, I love to socialize. In many ways these friends have kept me alive.

My wife, is amazing. She saw the opportunity to purchase a second apartment in our building, did so, and set me up on the seventeenth floor with an office. I never meet clients there, but on days that I don't have to see clients, my commute is 6 floors by elevator. She also picks me up at the train in inclement weather, and mostly puts up with me. You see, I'm not the easiest patient.

Since I don't have a typical Parkinsonian tremor, most people are unaware of the affliction. Ergo, I often refuse to acknowledge it. I acknowledge no reason why I still can't do the things that I've always loved. I always took long walks. Although I have fallen three times, I don't completely accept that these incidents are Parkinson's related. The first time I slipped on the ice. The next two times, I fell over my own, riverboat like, feet.

Parkinson's patients sometimes act out their dreams.All of my dreams are sports related. I've jumped in bed trying to spike a volleyball. I've hit my hands against the headboard blocking a shot, playing basketball. On five different occasions, I've fallen out of bed. The most recent time, I was dreaming that I was sliding into first base. I woke up, unhurt, but pissed off. There is no reason to ever slide into first base. Furthermore, anybody who knows me, knows that I move much to slowly to make a play that close. I guess that my wife and I are lucky that I never liked Boxing.

My disease has progressed very slowly. Although I did initially get depressed and feel sorry for myself, I soon realized that that was a waste of valuable time.

A college buddy of mine, mentioned that he had heard that I was sick. I reacted with vitriol, "I am not sick." Everybody has problems, but I have learned to count my blessings.