“I want to be like you, talk like you, walk like you…” Disney’s The Jungle Book
As we enter the Memorial weekend I was thinking of all whom have sacrificed for us to continue to have the freedom and liberties we all enjoy in this country…I salute all our military men and women as well as their families for their selfless contributions.
But then there are other types of heroes who have done so much to protect our dignity while living with a chronic illness like Parkinson’s disease that they too deserve our gratitude and admiration.
One of these lovable characters who has stolen our hearts from a young age, is none other than your friend and mine Michael J Fox. He has become the embodiment of PD especially for those of us with young onset.
Seems like ever since I was in medical school training to be a neurologists he has been a constant in my life. I recall when we first heard of his diagnosis and speculated about the cause since he was so young and till then this illness was not associated with young people – at least not as an idiopathic disease.
Then when I was a fellow we at BCM did various gala’s to raise funds for PD. Mike was the guest of honor for one of these events. he had already published his first book and everyone including me was so looking forward to meeting him. and getting my book autographed. But, alas this was not meant to be. he had severe dyskinesia’s by then and was having a difficult time, my heart went out to him. however, one of his managers promised me to get my book autographed but I never got back. (a bit disappointing). yet, Michael appeared live via satellite and did in fact speak to us and despite his severe uncontrolled movements he was as charming and personable as always. Little did I know then that we would share so much more in common both off us developing the illness about the same age. Twenty years later I would finally get the chance to meet him in person and thank him for his contribution and his eternal optimism. nor did I realize I would get a chance to be part of his foundation as an ambassador for public policy issues.
Recently, he was featured in the cover of AARP magazine , an honor he greatly deserves. As I read this, I realize we share the same philosophy of life in dealing with this devastating illness. I, too, agree that top and foremost importance is to have “optimism” which I call faith- knowing things will look up and work out for the better if you just hold on long enough. This has served him well as he continues to thrive despite nearly 3 decades of PD. I, too, feel this is one of the many reasons along with ability to laugh at my self and my circumstances that I continue to enjoy my life despite living with PD. He also finds a good dose of humor to be just as important as any medication prescribed by a physician.
Finally, besides family, love and giving others what you need in your life is keeping busy mentally and physically that make a world of difference in maintaining a positive outlook on life whether you have an illness or not.
Thus, I urge anyone living with PD or any other chronic illness to be more like Mike and enjoy life to the fullest.
Happy Memorial Weekend everyone!
All rights reserved- Maria De Leon MD