Coming to terms with the feelings and emotions brought on by the new changes in your body is a huge part of living with a chronic illness like Parkinson’s. Especially for us women who may already have issues about our bodies before the diagnosis occurred. Therefore, in keeping with the fact that we are all Divas and we recently celebrated International Women’s Day – I want all of us to be kind to ourselves. We are beautiful!
When I was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, my body image was the furthest concern from my mind. All I wanted to know was which medication I was going to take first and how fast would I be able to return to normalcy never expecting that my body image would change in more ways than one ….most of which were unexpected.
Of course neither did I count on getting recurrent thyroid cancer soon after my Parkinson’s diagnosis which brought on a new set of concerns and life changes along with a whole slew of side effects related to both the radiation and the new PD medications.
I was never considered thin but I was shapely in a good way, so I was told, but suddenly my weight ballooned to over 200lbs due to lack of thyroid hormone coupled with inactivity brought on a severe and total body wash out. For nearly a year, I slept almost 24 hours a day, I could hardly dress myself much less drive or care for anyone else …even sitting up to watch a movie drained me completely. Of course at that time, I was just trying my best to survive and live my life as best I could…far from my mind were the thoughts of diet, calorie intake, or weight concerns.
I was more concerned about my hair loss…although, realistically no one other than me was worried about eventually becoming bald since I have been blessed with an enormous amount of hair. Yet, it was very distressing to see hand fulls of hair on my pillow each time I awoke and see hand fills more fall as I tried to wash my hair – poorly I might add due to both Parkinson’s and thyroid disease. I was so weak I could not even hold my head up ..the little I did walk was always with my head down..which was interesting to notice everyone’s shoes. On a rare occasion, I ventured out to the store with my friend, as I was pushing the cart rather holding on to dear life I noticed a beautiful pair of Royal blue high heels pass on by and I so wanted to know who was the woman wearing such exquisite pair of shoes to a grocery store. I concentrated all of my efforts to get a glimpse of the woman by cocking my head forward and looking up…when I realized it was an older woman ..probably 70 years old, a tear trickled down my cheek – because here I was in the prime of my life and I could not even do basic self grooming much less wear a beautiful pair of shoes (my favorite thing to do).
Ambulating slowly, changes in vision, stiffness, tremors, balance problems are all readily acknowledge ways in which Parkinson’s affects a person living with PD but the aesthetics aspects are not high on the list like changes in skin, hair, and of course weight issues.
Although, initially all my weight problems or at least the majority were related to my thyroid over the years my weight has gone up and down due to Parkinson’s medications which has been rather frustrating. Then of course are all the tons of steroids that have been pumped into me for asthma and recurrent back pain.
Even though some people can experience weight loss, most of us women have just the opposite effect. this is because the medications tend to cause bloating, water retention and increase our cravings for sweets (this is all Parkinson’s patients), compounded by the fact that our bellies protrude more due to age, possible hysterectomies and slow gi motility and we are fighting an uphill battle especially when our activity decreases due to physical manifestations of the disease. plus, although it has not been well studied but i have seen it time and time again an increase in weight in women who have had DBS surgery. so all these things together may cause us undue stress when we no longer can fit into our favorite dress. Yet, our doctors simply state, “you must lose weight!” without really understanding all that is entailed.
But, when your kids start noticing that you where a lot of ‘stretchy pants’ – the message is clear. What to do next?
So you start with accepting your body and learn to appreciate it and enjoy it. Never give into self pity or despair. Someone once said that ‘body acceptance is a journey not a destination.‘
Begin by loving yourself and start by making small changes- change the things you can like eating healthier, exercising more, seeking a nutritionist advice, joining a support group. However, we must also remember that one of the biggest contributors to weight increase is poor sleep. As a PD patient we all know how hard it is to sleep sometimes. all last year i took advantage of this to stay up all night writing but although I seemingly accomplished a lot I only manage to add insult to injury when it came down to my health and weight issues.make sure that if you are having sleep issues you speak to your doctor and start by having a routine – no t.v. in bedroom, keep room dark and cool and no electronics before bed time; of course daily exercise in the am helps with this as well.
Acknowledge how you feel – its not vanity to want to look good but is more important to be HEALTHY – a heavier person can be healthier than a less heavy one so don’t get hung up on the actual number on the scale. don’t hold yourself up to an unrealistic standard which can only be harmful- talk to a caring and knowledgeable physician or medical professional. Always focus on the POSITIVES!!!
I am enjoying my life and doing what I can to minimize any further weight increase while working once again on losing unwanted pounds -. getting plenty of rest…when my body calls for it and sleeping at least 8 hours a night. Proud to say, I can now parade around in my own beautiful pair of blue high heels even if it’s just for a short period of time.