Elizabeth Chadwick first noticed some weakness in her left side about 5 years ago, and after a couple of falls, was diagnosed 4 years ago at the age of 65. She had worked adjudicating social security disability cases, and thus was familiar with Parkinson’s Disease. On her diagnosis she retired, and now she does oil painting, including both shows and commission work. Elizabeth is British, and has lived in the US since the 1970’s and in Oregon since 1987.
Her symptoms have progressed slowly, and include reduced appetite and some weakness in her voice. She mostly notices her slowness, which she says “feels like wading through chest-high water.” This has forced her to withdraw from a couple of walking groups where she found herself unable to keep up. She also experiences some light-headedness, and finds that she needs to get up from sitting or lying down slowly, and she can’t do contra dancing any more because the spinning makes her dizzy.
Elizabeth has also noticed some minor cognitive impairment, although as with many PD patients she’s not sure whether this is a result of PD or aging generally. Mostly she has a hard time staying awake when reading or going to movies. She finds it harder to learn languages and travel.
Elizabeth started taking Sinemet a year ago. She finds it helpful but says that exercise helps the most. On the whole she describes her symptoms at this point as “a mild to moderate inconvenience.”
What has Elizabeth learned from having PD? It’s not as devastating as one might think; she has good days and bad days, and can cope with them. She says “as a society we are always looking ahead, and thinking about reaching our goals. Having PD has taught me to live in the present, and to grab every moment as if it were my last.”
Elizabeth’s advice to people who are newly diagnosed is that “it’s not the end of the world. PD progresses slowly, and there is a lot of new research going on. It is reasonable to hope that new therapies will at least be able to slow or stop the progression of the disease. Meanwhile, it is important to stay engaged with the world.”
Elizabeth urges people who don’t have PD not to avoid the subject, and not to be afraid to ask questions. Remember that your friends with PD are experts about living with this condition, and they are generally happy to talk about it with you.