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Faye's Story

Patient, Photographer, World Traveler

My Parkinson’s diagnosis felt unreal–like a disconcerting dream. In hindsight, I realize I’d had hints that something was wrong, but when I was actually diagnosed, it came as a surprise.

My first indication was undoubtedly the complete loss of my sense of smell. “Okay,” I thought. “I can live with that, though I will certainly miss the scent of plumeria blossoms the next time I exit the airline terminal in Hawaii.”

I have always enjoyed biking and I suppose I assumed I could always hop on a bike and pedal wherever I wanted. But then I started noticing a lack of balance, and even crashed a couple of times in the midst of an easy turn. We are a dedicated ski family and this, too, changed for me. It wasn’t until I was forty that I learned to ski, and I was making progress, though I never came close to the skill level of my family. However, suddenly, it seemed my skills were deteriorating instead of improving. My left foot just couldn’t be relied upon to negotiate the turns. I began to panic because I didn’t know what was happening and the unknown is what terrified me. My life was slowly changing, and I could no longer do all the things I’d once done with ease.

After experiencing a lack of balance and coordination, I began to have tremors on my left side, and I saw my personal physician to discuss my concerns. He immediately suggested Parkinson’s as a possibility and referred me to a neurologist. The neurologist explained my diagnosis and put me on a regimen of meds. This calmed my tremors, and understanding what was happening helped calm my mind.

My choice of activities has changed because of Parkinson’s, but the real core of my existence, the relationship with my family, remains solid. We’ve always loved traveling and have continued to do so.

In January, 2016 we traveled to Tanzania, Africa on safari, and I was able to bring the Serengeti home via my Nikon. Photography has been a favorite activity since my teen years. Accompanying us on the journey was another couple also dealing with Parkinson’s, and although the flight over and back was challenging, we all agreed it was well worth the discomfort. Most recently I went to Ireland on a mother/daughter expedition. We visited Blarney Castle but did not climb the winding castle staircase to kiss the Blarney Stone. That omission we may someday regret. In 2015, my husband retired from 40 years of dentistry, and with our new time together, we search out activities and new experiences and remain close with our five children and their families.

Once I knew what I was dealing with, I decided I would not be hindered by Parkinson’s. I’m perfectly content to accompany my husband on ski trips, but now I will take along snowshoes (maybe) and a good book (for sure!). I enjoy my life and push my limits. Life’s too precious not to savor each day.

Faye Olsen, Age 73, USA

Living with Parkinson’s

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