Patient, husband, journalist
I’ve been a journalism teacher and practicing newsman for most of my professional life. I worked about 30 years at The University of Montana’s School of Journalism, and cut my journalism teeth as a young reporter for a number of Montana newspapers. When I retired from the J-School, my wife and I moved to Europe where I taught in Prague, worked as an editor at The Prague Post, the Czech Republic’s English language paper, and summered as an editor at The International Herald Tribune in Paris. After eight years in Europe, we returned to our home in Montana, where I looked forward to a less hectic lifestyle and a chance to write. It wasn’t too long after this that I found myself staring face to face with Parkinson’s disease, which has dramatically changed my life and, consequently, undermined my communication skills
Living through the first year with Parkinson’s disease (PD) was a difficult challenge for me. My doctors discovered signs of my disease before I did, but it was not long before I began to recognize PD symptoms in myself. I found myself teetering and unbalanced when I walked. On one occasion, I lost my balance on campus as students around me headed for their classes. In this case, I blacked out briefly and fell to my knees in the grass where a student helped me get up. Another time, in a crowded room, I approached a colleague who hadn’t seen me for a few years; he looked at me, and my bent posture and asked if I was all right. Both incidences were embarrassing moments of truth that brought home the reality of my situation.
Another sobering discovery was my step-daughter’s being diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s. Her inspiring way of dealing with PD has been a tower of strength for me.
A variety of medication, exercise, diet and rest have helped me greatly. Still, my situation fluctuates, and when one symptom is less prevalent, it seems another appears. However, the greatest disappointment is being unable to communicate - speak and write - as effectively as I had in the past. From the age of twelve, I wanted to be a journalist, and I had imagined writing throughout my retirement. Nonetheless, I feel that I am able to enjoy as full a life as possible with the help of my wife and caregiver, my family and friends. As I contemplate what the future holds for those of us with PD, I feel positive about ongoing research and increased support for persons with Parkinson’s.