Patient, Husband, Teacher, Humor Enthusiast
When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, at the age of 66, my first neurologist advised me to start "regular treatment” of Dopamine. To my question about side effects such as uncontrolled movements, his reply was that it wouldn’t matter because those symptoms would show up in about seven years from now, when I’ll be old anyway. But that wasn’t what I was looking for at my retirement. I have always been busy and active. When I first began planning my retirement, I wanted to stay active. So, I approached another neurologist, at a different hospital, who was much more empathetic and less eager to put me straight away on “aggressive” treatment.
I taught Educational Management at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and I still volunteer to teach a class on the role of humor in management. We study the impact of humor on people and my students’ assignment is to design a research proposal, looking at the use of humor in specific contexts such as: women’s humor in patriarchal societies, use of humor by school principals, or even humor regarding PD. There is humor in life.
For example, my wife Edna and I have been married for nearly 60 years, and when we first met we made a deal: she would join me for soccer games, and I would join her for concerts of classical music. For her – one soccer game was quite enough. On my side of the deal – I think I’ve been to thousands of concerts. Sometimes, my daughters ask me “When will you retire and become a fulltime grandpa?” They may be right, but nevertheless I keep myself busy and fight against the self-pity that can come with PD. Slowing down is hard, and though I do move more slowly than I used to, I still try to do all the things that make me feel like I’m contributing in a positive way.
One challenge I’ve had to confront: there is a lot of prejudice against people with Parkinson’s. People often think that I don’t have the capacity to work, to teach, or to understand, because I am ill. And while the symptoms do affect me, I try to be patient with myself and to show others that I still have a lot to offer. It is easy for a patient with Parkinson’s to lose the essence of life, to fall down, to sleep. It is a fight for staying fit and not giving up.
Sometimes it’s difficult for me to control my voice and body movements. It can be hard to look straight at people’s eyes, so I deliberately make efforts to maintain eye contact, and I trained my speech to become more expressive rather than speaking in a “flat voice.” Also, I make sure that while speaking I move my hands and make facial expressions.
One thing that I’ve learned about Parkinson’s is that uncertainty is a certainty. I never know what is coming ahead of me. I have good days and hard days. On bad days I “fake it,” pretending that I’m not a sick person. This actually seems to help me. I try to be conscious and stay optimistic. I am thinking about the future.
Dan Inbar, Age 80, Israel
Living with Parkinson’s