Parkinson’s disease and dealing with other medical problems: By Maria De Leon

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“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls others build windmills”- Chinese Proverb

Lately, I have been a bit distant from my social media sites and blogs and I must ask for forgiveness. After a month of joyful celebration on the occasion of my birthday, I have discovered that even the good times can end up in flames and the best things can go up –up-up into the stratosphere in a split of a second. At that time, we stop and try as best we can to reach and hold on to the good times and fond memories before they are completely out of our reach till the wind changes once again bringing us back the things we love.
So, at present the winds of my sail have slightly shifted into some rough waters and I am struggling to hold onto the elusive butterfly of good health ( as much as one can have good health in the midst of a chronic illness like PD) waiting for a favorable wind once more.
Funny thing is that as we all live with a chronic illness, we tend to worry about things that will most likely never happen; yet the things we never see coming can take us for a loop and blindside us especially when they come unexpectedly on a Tuesday afternoon as most unexpected things do.
After a month of pancreatitis followed by a wonderful month of birthday celebrations, reuniting with old friends and working on the things I love writing, speaking, sharing stories over coffee with other fellow Parkinson’s friends, I got a most unexpected call. You have a “mass” in an unexpected place- my liver.
As my life came to a scratching halt, I have come to realize a few things.
First, how lucky I am to have a wonderful husband, daughter, family as well as wonderful friends such as you guys.
Second, despite the fact that in this country we are experiencing a terrible health crisis, we are still very lucky to be able to have choices regarding what doctors to see, multiple treatment options even for those of us with low socioeconomic means due to many charitable organizations which help many individuals and families pay for costly treatments. Recently while at the medical center in Houston, I happened to run into a patient who told me she had traveled alone from Australia after selling a great deal of possessions just to be able to make the trip to this country. She said she came here because ‘the US has the best doctors and medicines in the world!’ She was visibly desperate to find answers and new forms of treatments for her cancer. She told me that in her native country although medicine is socialized and free for all, the waits are long and they don’t have many choices …it is first come first serve and one treatment type for all. In her case for her type of cancer. I felt so sorry for her and wished that I could help somehow. After all we know, prognosis and treatment plans really need to be individualized because not a single one among us is the same as the other. Even when we have the same disease or cancer our responses to treatment are entirely unique partly due to our genetics, our sex, as well as our cultural imprinting and belief system.
I referred her to several programs which typically help people with cancer not knowing if they could help her since she was not from this country. All the while hoping and praying they could offer her the assistance she needed to help her chances of recovery and fight her cancer with the best treatment options available.
Little that I know that a few months later I would find myself in a similar situation trying to find the best doctors and treatment options for my own disease. Unlike her, I do have insurance in this country but if it turns out to be a malignancy I will also need some form of assistance from some charitable organization since according to my healthcare provider I am already in the catastrophic range for this year. I thought I was doing great!
Thus my worries at this time are concentrated only on finding the best team of physicians to help me get back to doing what I love; spending time with family and taking care of people with PD. Thank God for the fact that although out healthcare system is in desperate need for an overhaul, we have many entrepreneurs who are willing to help fill in some of the gaps. Nevertheless, we still need our government to step up their efforts so that we don’t end up in a country such as Mexico where medicine like the rest of the country is ruled by the have’s and have –nots creating a sense of laissez-faire attitude in most of the population- why seek care if won’t be able to afford treatment?
Third, dealing with my doctors over the last few weeks, I have once again confirmed the need for self-advocacy. This seems particularly true in this day and age of high physician burn -out and demands within the practice of medicine. This undue stress is imposed especially on those who treat chronically ill patients. That is because the patients with the most medical problems like myself eventually become Medicare recipients. As with any government agency there are always more regulations, restrictions, and demands on the physician. These demands have in turn left physicians stretched so thin that more things are apt to fall through the cracks then previously over the last 2 decades. Abnormal tests can be over looked easily at times…
Hence, when dealing with chronic illnesses have a voice that can advocate on your behalf if you are unable to. It takes time and effort particularly if you are already feeling bad to keep up with doctors’ appointments, insurance bill’s, tests, medications, and so on. Keep a diary, ask specific questions, keep problem issues to no more than 3, make more frequent appointments (don’t settle for I will see you in 6 months if you have ongoing problems), when getting tests done ask specifically what this test will show or help with and during follow up ask again by name the results of that test (e.g. what did my MRI brain show?). If you know you are waiting on test results make sure you schedule to follow up also if you have gotten a new treatment. Always call if in doubt or with questions. Remember to practice patience, which is the most difficult thing to have in the midst of bad news or new procedures. All things in medicine take time especially the more complicated the procedure, the history of the patient, or the findings – which is always my case. Most likely you will have to wait weeks for an answer even when all things are running smoothly – keep your cool, rest, eat well and follow up until you get the desired answer.
This too shall pass and the wind will once again blow in our favor!
when the wind blows don’t be the one fighting it rather be the one to harness it and find a new direction…

@copyright 2018
All rights reserved by Maria De Leon

The Beauty of Self-Care: By Maria De Leon

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“Self care is not self indulgence. Self care is self respect and an act of survival.” Lorde

I am not sure about you ladies, but as of late I have been wobbling on an emotional precipice between the recent negative medical news of my husband, my daughter going away to college (perhaps far from home in a world where there appears to be increased chaos at each turn), my mother’s declining cognitive status, and my own current relentless wave of medical trials and tribulations. Sometimes as my dad would often say, “too much is too much.”

My natural inclination is to push forward on all fronts no matter how I feel. As a physician and a mother, I am used to taking charge during a crisis and stepping up as the caregiver placing my own needs at the bottom of the list. However, throughout my years of living with PD, I have discovered that not prioritizing myself however only leads to a slippery slope. My bottled up frustrations, stress, and malaise have a tendency to creep up to the surface like an erupting volcano seeping through every pore of my being (Curse you Parkinson’s disease, migraines and whatever other medical problem I have) causing me to become the true epitome of a fiery dragon. Just like a volcano can no more contain its pressure so do our feelings must find a way out – unfortunately when they do they cannot only be explosive but extremely lethal causing devastation in its wake, as we have seen in the news last few days with the eruption of Kilauea.

One of the things I always talk about in managing this chronic and any chronic illness is self-care and prioritizing once self. Easier said than done especially when you got all the burners on.
So, in the midst of all these new challenges, I have had to force myself to find time for me to heal in order to continue caring for all those who depend on me and get to the root of my ailments. An-empty-lantern-provides-no-light_-Self-care-is-the-fuel-that-allows-your-light-to-shine-brightly_-Unknown

Of course, this is much more difficult when you look and feel like you are ten months pregnant carrying twins! Yes, I got a partial small bowel obstruction-yikes! How did this happen? I was doing so well? For starters traveling lots, not keeping schedule on meals, along with increase stress did not help and possibly aided in my current predicament.

First order of business besides getting rid of relentless nausea and vomiting and prevent dehydration while reliving obstruction was to disconnect from the world- hence my lack of presence in social media as of late. I have also committed myself to spending more time with my daughter talking…this time is priceless.
Reminding myself and my family that frivolous time spent on one self like reading a favorite book, doing art, laughing with a friend, watching a favorite movie, listening to great music, or simply resting actually does more for the healing process than medications at times.empty cup

I have caught up on sleep. Allowing myself to sleep as much as my body needed to recover. I am doing better but not 100% back to ‘normal’ yet. Even in my “pregnant” state, I have continued my breathing treatments and meditation. These have helped me tremendously in calming my pain, anxiety and discomfort of having a huge belly.
I even had a manicure just to feel better- bright pink! Plus, even though I have been feeling like crap for the last 3 weeks, I found that doing some talks over the web helped my mood and my overall predisposition. Bringing smiles to others always brings back positive vibes into our souls.

Remember, that if we want to be ambassadors for those who have a chronic illness like PD and bring positive changes, we must first be good to ourselves and be happy behind the scenes when just you and no one else is watching. Do the things I have recommended often, like take time for yourself every day, make time for family and loved ones, do things that make you happy, pamper yourself (there are many ways of doing this without going broke). If you feel that the world is spinning out of control, go ahead and inject some kindness back into it.
Love to hear your own self-care strategies in dealing with chronic illness.

self care
Xoxo
Parkinson’s Diva

copyright@2018
all rights reserved by Maria De Leon

Need for Ongoing Affordable Access to Medical Care : by Maria De León

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I am a physician with many friends and colleagues still attempting to practice medicine throughout the country. It is particularly difficult for those who have chosen to remain in rural areas like the one I live in.  Due to the current hostile changes that have taken place in recent years, many physicians have been forced to move to the city to join academia.  Subsequently, we the patients are the ones bearing the brunt of the cuts and loss of specialist in many areas throughout the country.  With these changes patients are now forced to travel farther many miles to find a especially a specialist which believe me is not an easy feat to do as the disease progresses and also as our capacity to drive diminishes.

Moreover, those physicians who are truly committed to patient care and remain not just in the field but in areas where there is a need quickly find themselves overwhelmed, frustrates, on the verge of a burnout. Why ? I believe this one of the few professions in which the expert does not only lack autonomy but has to constantly fight with everyone to be able to do what he/she was trained to do and what he/ she deems best for the patient. No wonder 42% of all doctors are facing burnout and symptoms of depression, to make matters worst nearly 1/2 of those physicians are neurologists! With the increase in Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, and stroke in the aging population, we simply cannot afford to lose any more specialists.

Not only do we need to continue encouraging the US Congress to increase funding for research to halt these diseases but also provide adequate compensation for physicians managing these extremely complex entities, as well as provide funding and make necessary changes to the laws so that we can have tele-neurology availability  independent of where the patient or provider lives in the country. This form of care is essential for those that are too sick to travel, unable to drive, or have no other means of seeing a specialist because non exists within their state. The need for tele-neurology/telemedicine has become more pressing than ever before as we have seen this past year as several major catastrophe natural disasters have left many people stranded and afraid and without their much needed medications and access to medical care. thus, increasing morbidity and mortality in the chronically ill.

Another way we can decrease the stress level in our specialist and healthcare providers is getting rid of unnecessary red tape/bureaucracy. One example of this is allowing doctors autonomy to manage their patients medications as they see fit. Nothing creates more work and frustration,  for both patient and doctor than having to waste valuable time in getting pre-authorization and pre-approval of medications which have not been altered in years due to patients stability. of course if i went much longer without medication, I would no longer be stable ! This happened last week when ice storm hit 1/2 of country. Subsequently many offices including doctors and insurance companies were closed for days.

Meanwhile patients like me who desperately need their medications to continue functioning could not get a refill or even purchase a few til doctors were able to be contacted because price of each pill was nearly $100 ($3,000 for month supply- who can afford this?). It took me 5 days to get my medication and that’s only because I am a physician who could talk to her friend and to insurance  review committee without having to wait for medical records and could sit for hours on phone waiting to speak to someone otherwise it would have taken much longer given the circumstances. Many times, however, people that are sick neither have the savvyness to know who to call or dispute claim and/ or they lack the time, and energy required to carry out such feats. All I could think was that many people (such as doctor, pharmacist) were wasting valuable resources on me  trying to get a medicine i have been on for a decade when there are people out there who truly needed help because they were having problems and physicians offices closed, etc. walking thehalls

Sadly, as the problems and complexities increase in the field of  neurosciences/ and incidence of progressiveness diseases like PD augment, doctors and patients will continue to be stretched to their limits until someone breaks from pure physical and emotional exhaustion. Thus, I encourage everyone once again to contact their Congressional Representatives to help improve not only our quality of life by funding research ( which will not only help patients but also  provide salaries for clinicians who are doing research), the Raise Act (passed recently to help caregivers with financial burden), and telemedicine. Without your voice demanding  healthcare changes, there can be no hope for patients with chronic neurological illnesses to live better, healthier lives while maintaining access to their own specialists.

Join in me in March In DC as we (MJFOX public policy forum 2018) make our way to Capitol Hill to advocate for these salient issues. See you there!

Sources:

https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2018-lifestyle-burnout-depression-6009235

copyright@2018

all rights reserved by Maria De Leon

A Year in the Parkinson’s Diva Life: By Maria De Leon

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A woman is strong because she has been weak; she is beautiful because she knows her own faults; and lives without fear because once she was afraid.”

Carolina Herrera

As we draw near the end of another year, I am prone to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly that which has greatly impacted my life. Not everything that touches us or makes us who we are is necessarily good or at least not on the surface.

This year has been a year of great losses for many of us as well as great victories. Is my experience that these usually go hand in hand. The triumphs allow us to get through the sorrows and hardships while the devastating moments make the victories that much sweeter.

The year started strong with me finally getting better after last year’s pulmonary embolism and TIA (mini stroke) which took me nearly 6 months to fully recover.

Then it suddenly took a turn for the worst with my best friend being diagnoses with stage 4 cancer! a week after we had made all kinds of plans for the year…

Got to travel to DC see old friends, make new friends, and even meet a few celebrities such as MJFox while advocating for changes in public policy to improve research funding, and better more affordable health care at Capitol Hill.

Traveled to a new country with my husband and daughter and found the perfect city that made my hair look fabulous because there was no humidity. Who knew my hair could look good first thing in the morning?

After much prayer and seven long months of grueling chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant, my friend is finally cancer free- confirming that miracles still exist!

Saw two of my nieces and nephews graduate – one doing a master and one started college and i got to play the fun Tia (aunt) role throwing parties and even traveling with my niece to her new university. Since it all is connected somehow, I got to meet my new friends (Kate & Chris) at Health Union where I am now a contributing author on the health communities of  http://www.migraine.com and http://www.parkinsonsdisease.net; where I am cherishing the opportunity to work with like minded individuals who are just as passionate about making a difference in someones world.  For me doing something that I love doing aside from Parkinson is also a huge plus.

Let’s not forget that this year, we celebrated 200 year’s since Dr. James Parkinson annotated his observation on a disease we now call by his name. As such, I was a part of a huge campaign to bring PD awareness to the Hispanic community in this country by appearing on sites like Dr. Isabel show on Univision and was broadcasted around the country through the radio to several Spanish speaking station from Texas to Florida, Georgia and the Carolina’s. Plus, I now can boast of having two published books with my latest Spanish book on PD – Viviendo mas alla del parkinson was recently published.

Of course before the summer was over, I was down for over two months with a viral infection after seeing my doctor the day before, where he complimented my good health and said i did not need to see him till next year. Famous last words! this little viral infection caused me to miss my opportunity to travel to South Dakota. Fortunately, I was able to at least virtually meet a few of them including saying hi to my friends whom I like to call ‘the Mary’s!’

Lost an old friend and regained an old friend. But, as I was driving around the other day dropping off  and chauffeuring my daughter and classmates all over the place I realized is not such a bad life. Sure I can’t multitask to save my life, can’t remember even my own name a couple of hours after taking amantadine or even where I opened a bank account – “at some bank on a corner street”, I told my husband. “Which corner?”, he asked extremely perplexed since there is one in nearly every corner. “I don’t know,” I said. “I am pretty sure I will know when I see it.” Not comforting words to my husband or any other man.

I get frustrated easily and my goodness the heat is unbearable dripping droplets of water from my forehead on a regular basis but not a drop of fat lost- husband’s theory is that my body is conserving its nutrients because I seem to go into starvation mode for a few days at a time when my gastroparesis is at its peak. At any rate, I have learned to appreciate my curves and the moments when I am totally ‘me’ feeling as good as any young healthy person would – for which my husband has dubbed my life as the Curious Case of Maria D. When I am on top of my game and not choking on my own saliva and not  tripping over myself or running over the garage- I seem to be getting younger and stronger in his eyes!

Perhaps, I am not afraid of PD because I was once consumed with fear of the unknown; it no longer has a strong hold over me. Thanks to PD, I have learned to be more forgiving of mine and others shortcomings and have learned when to rely on my strengths and when to ask for help because I am weak- which happens a lot. I constantly get inspiration from strong, independent, beautiful, intelligent Hispanic Women who happen to be icons in their own fields such as Isabel Allende, Carolina Herrera. i identify with the latter because she began her career  in her 40’s, at an age when I too had to make a new transition in my life from physician/clinician to writer/motivational speaker and most important of all patient advocate.  And like her, I believe that fashion is an outward expression of ourselves free and unencumbered. But, the best garment any woman can wear is knowledge.

Aside from all this things for which I am truly grateful,  one of the greatest gifts and joys has been able to share my journey with all of you.

Thank you & Happy Holidays to everyone!

XOXO

@copyright2017

all rights reserved by Maria De Leon

The cost of Parkinson’s and other chronic illnesses…

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Although, fortunately the new health reform bill was turned down last night we as patients still face the uncertainty of what the future healthcare system will bring reform will bring. Thus, we strive to have members of congress understand what it means to live with a chronic illness and deal with the financial burden it places not just on the patients and families. More importantly, society as a whole can suffer if there is no assistance for the growing number of people living longer with chronic illnesses like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and cancer to mention a few. As I give thanks to God for the miracle of modern medicine and His Grace which has brought healing to my best friend, I reflect on the issues of healthcare. And as she begins her slow recovery from recurrent metastatic stage 4 cancer which was wide spread, I ponder not only on the toll the illness has left on her body, her family, the relationships but also the enormous financial burden it has placed on them after 8 months of hospitalization, numerous bone marrow transplants, labs, testing and the slew of chemotherapeutic agents not counting the number of specialists and other ancillary staff.  The toll that the cost of medicines takes on a family or individual can be insurmountable. Unfortunately, this is also a place where few people ever come back or recover from. Not only is the sudden realization that our health is not under our control but the daunting reality of having to live a progressive illness as many of us like myself lose their livelihoods and ability to continue working can be far too overwhelming.

The grave reality is that financial factors play a major role in patient’s use of medications and subsequently sadly the patient’s outcome with a disease process. I have seen this first hand as a patient, doctor and caregiver. Sometimes, we don’t think about the financial issues at the onset of illness since our priority is to get well; but as the disease progresses and the time from diagnosis extends, this is the most critical factor in a person’s long term outcome for which many of us are ill prepared and as physicians don’t provide adequate guidance and support. I summit that low incomes and poor finances along with lack of access to medicines and treatments is the number one cause for patients and families demise and dissatisfaction with disease rather than the lack of treatments. I have heard time and time again from both patients and doctors the frustration in their voices in regards to lack of coverage of much needed medications. Unfortunately because always have to revert to the “cheaper” treatments the options become quite limited and not always offer the best outcome.

As I prepared another talk about the 200 years of Parkinson’s and the latest discovery and treatments options I was reminded by the people in the audience to whom I have addressed in past conferences. Most elderly, Medicare on fixed incomes who cannot afford the luxury of paying  high premiums for newer medications even if they do promise  to be more effective, with fewer side effects or prolong quality of life decrease disability and so on.

Looking at other patients with chronic illnesses, especially cancer patients are at risk of filing for bankruptcy due to severe financial burden but what is most interesting is that those who file for bankruptcy in context of chronic illness are at greater risk for having an early demise. Un fortunately, I have seen it firsthand particularly those who are young and don’t have the financial stability that an older person might have from years of productive labor hence are more likely to forego treatments or seek alternate remedies as in the Hispanic communities because of lack of monetary resources and lack of access to health care because of poor or no insurance coverage.  And even when the chronically Ill are over 65 and on Medicare, the restrictions placed by an outside third party who does not understand the intricacies of a complex illness such as Parkinson’s can tie the hands of the healthcare practitioners. Forcing patients to use less effective treatments or older treatments or asking doctor to find the cheapest medication which in the case of Parkinson’s is levodopa/ carbidopa. Although it still remains the gold standard, 50 years’ experience has shown us that this medication alone is fraught with side effects when used as a sole treatment option increasing likelihood of dyskinesia’s and subsequent decline in quality of life.

We cannot allow our chronically Ill to continue to undergo increased financial toxicity due to lack of government support. We must stand up and ask our representatives to continue to provide support for those who are chronically ill and not remove benefits for those with preexisting conditions and improve access to healthcare especially much needed drug treatments.

Some of the questions you might want to have early on with doctor when diagnosed with a chronic illness is referral to social worker, and to lawyers  experts in chronic diseases for financial planning including long term care for spouses or caregivers.

When discussing medications ask the price but also price benefit ratio. Don’t simply ask for a cheaper drug which might result in more adverse effects causing more hospitalizations and more doctors’ visits or side effects than a more expensive medication which in the long run would be more cost effective to keep you stable and also avoid the inherent confusion many have by having different generic brands for same medicine. (In my experience, the varying colors and shapes of same medicine gets patients confused by making them believe they are different especially in the elderly).  Ask if there is a less expensive treatment option that is equally effective.

Are there any nonprofit organizations or community organizations that can aid with burden of Drug cost. Also inquire what about any drug programs from companies – different companies have different philosophies in regard to helping patients.

But also important to note that many drugs used in neurology to treat many non-motor symptoms are off label but widely accepted among the community physicians to treat certain causes but with the new restrictions of Medicare. Previously employed medicines maybe denied leaving you stranded …I am in a quandary at this point with one of my meds. Discuss with your physician have them appeal if denied or find other appropriate alternatives. Don’t just suffer because insurance denied or medicine is expensive.

Here is a foundation where some of you might find assistance Patient Advocate Copay relief -1-866-512-3861. Also look at NORD. http://www.patientassistanceprograms.com

 

@ July 2017 All rights reserved Maria De Leon MD

 

 

 

 

 

OH, the places you will Go!: By Maria De Leon

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“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.” Dr. Seuss, Oh the places You’ll Go!Image result for pd tulip logo

I love this time of year, not just because the weather is beginning to change although living in Texas sometimes it seems like we just have hot, hotter, drenching sweat or can’t move humidity. Nevertheless, we have gorgeous days like today where there is a clear blue sky with a gentle breeze and perfect 66 degrees. Suddenly, your mood is uplifted and all seems right with the world. But, also because this is the time of year when we raise awareness for PD which means not only do I get to spend more time pursing my passion;  but I get to travel to meet wonderful people who share my same passion and illness. When I travel as I did just last week, to Lubbock to the Southwestern Parkinson’s Society conference, I am always impressed by my agility and ability to flutter along unencumbered by my usual companions (symptoms of  Parkinson’s). At least temporarily until they catch up with me, hard as I try to lose them.

On the way to whatever destination I am bound for, I am always ecstatic by the possibilities especially when I travel with friends or schedule to meet friends along the way. However, inevitably my old friend shows up with its entourage of little dwarfs for the party: jerky, sleepy, clumsy, Reggie rigid, sweaty, and sometimes plain dumb. Once they arrive uninvited without party streamers, confetti or balloons, I am transported back to my cell without as much as a gift  or slice of birthday cake. As the scent of freedom and the image of a woman who is Parkinson free lingers in the air like an afterthought, I begin to choke on my lunch. In the commotion of it all my  inner Diva    pulls out  a song which has become sort of an anthem for me,”It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to….You would cry too if it happened to you.”  Invariably, listening to this sound track play over and over (because of OCD) in my head, puts me  in a happy mood realizing the triviality of it all taking into account how lucky I really am to be     allowed to be a part of so many great people.  At times although, It  may feel like we are inside a prison, the truth Is that the cell doors to the jail are WIDE-OPEN, there are no chains and no one is holding us back! we are just as free as ever to do what we want with our  lives.

However, we must remember that in order to be productive and effective advocates, mom’s, wives, friends, exercising  our  freedom with enough energy to bolt out of  our prison cells and comfort zones ( to live a fuller life despite chronic illness – ), we must find time to recharge. We all recharge differently. Despite being an extrovert which thrives on having friends and family near by, I need my quiet time and rest.  Traveling although exhilarating can be terribly exhausting especially when I have to deal with ill behaved companions who show up at the most inopportune times. Thus, when I return I need down time- usually in form of undisturbed sleep away from uninvited guest who   have over stayed their welcome. No matter your method to recharge; it is imperative that you do so. I know that is never easy to carve time away from your responsibilities to step back and pamper yourself. For me it requires depending on others to fill in the gap when resting and rebooting. I would love to be the ‘super’ woman who can master it all with a single bound. However, it is impossible to act independently even when you are  100% healthy much less when you live with a chronic neurodegenerative disease (i.e. PD).  If I should try to go at it alone, I am sure to make many mistakes along the way and make my symptoms worse. Thus,  sleeping 10 hours when possible is not a bad compromise to allow me to sharpen my skills to be better at what I do- writer, advocate, teacher, mentor, mom, wife, sister, and friend. As  I lie down to  sleep,  I think this is in preparation for continuing to dream, travel, and inspire others to become all they are meant to be despite their PD busting the cell doors of their prison wide open to see beyond themselves to help others in their journey as I strive to do as well.

So, in the end knowing that my life has a purpose and I am free to go out whenever I choose out of my own cell to travel and encourage others in their walk with Parkinson’s –  even when I have to  frequently face and deal with my pesky companions who are always at the door looking to crash my party. I will still gladly sing “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to..” But, instead of tears of defeat, frustration, sadness, or regret I will happily shed tears of joy and gratitude for the people I have met along the way and the places I will go thanks to my PD. You too would cry if it happened to you!

 

Remember to #uniteforparkinsons

#together4PD  on this April Month

copyright-2017

all rights reserved – Maria De Leon MD

Capitol Hill Preparation: By Maria de Leon

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I feel very blessed to be part of a greatly empowered group of individuals from all around the country, brought together by the generosity  and  leadership of MjFox foundation. We all came collectively to D.C. committed to advancing the cause of Parkinson’s disease which affects nearly 2 million people nationally.  Myself and others are thrilled to speak to congress to ensure a better future for our families and for all those of us who live with PD. We are all advocating for a chance to have the best quality of life possible and to remain productive members of society.

I, personally, have been extremely lucky to have started treatment early in my disease by way of my profession and have access to excellent physicians and colleagues who have helped me remain active for the past decade despite my illness. However many in our communities have not been as fortunate to have access to healthcare, physicians /MDS (since many states lack neurologists), or even be able to afford the latest and newest medications and treatments available making living with PD that much more difficult. Hence, I along with others have descended upon Capitol Hill to make our voices heard on behalf of those who are unable to stand with us physically and the thousands of patients in each of our communities back home.

The goal of our visit is encourage increase funding ($36.6 billion) to the NIH to help biomedical research in all neurological areas but mainly in Parkinson’s disease. We are fast losing ground as a leading medical research country with China fast on our heels; if we don’t secure these funds not only will we lose our status but more importantly human lives will be at stake with loss of employments (we have the brightest minds in the neurological sciences and without money will be forced to move on to something else) and loss of quality of living . This money also helps fund our neurologists/MDS in training without it we will face and even greater shortage. We also know that the more minds working on an issue can potentially increase our odds of arriving to better treatments and a possible cure of any given illness i.e. PD.

Secondly, we are requesting allocating $5 billion to CDC to help put the surveillance act in effect. although bill was passed to start a registry of who and where PD is most prevalent it has not been instituted formally due to lack of funding. if we are to make ways in understanding the causes of Parkinson’s in various subpopulations such as young vs. old or understanding the significance of PD pockets as the one that exists in my neck of the woods in EAST Texas a.k.a. ‘East Texas PD belt.’  Without a national registry we can only estimate the number of people affected, which most of us believe is grossly underrepresented, thus we cannot begin to address the needs of the PD community in its entirety and allocate appropriate resources if we don’t know who and where these people are. Plus, we already know and estimate that the number of PD is on the rise and expected to double by year 2040, so chances are everyone will know someone affected by this illness at some point in their lives and may even have to be a caretaker or a patient themselves.  The DoD (department of defense) also needs money to evaluate PD in military with an increasing number of its soldiers returning with Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s like diseases after serving overseas. 

Thirdly, we also want to encourage health care reform that will continue to put the needs of patients first allowing them access to care (this includes physicians and other treatment modalities), to therapies (e.g. PT, OT, and ST) without caps. more importantly, to due away with the donut hole since 80% of PD patients are Medicare recipients on a fixed income and don’t have $8000 in the bank to cover medical expenses like drug therapies. As I have said many times, I firmly believe that patients could do so much better and have greater quality of life if doctors were able to treat their patients without restrictions from the government and allow us as doctors to choose the best treatments available and deemed necessary not what the insurances or government allow.  Having affordable access to the newest treatments would allow millions of people like me to continue the work we do and even continue to have jobs without burdening the system keeping us out of Medicare and institutions.

Finally, the thing to remember is that we patients don’t exist in a vacuum. We could not make it through our days without the help and support of our spouses, families, loved ones and our team of physicians and other healthcare providers. Some have suggested that for every PD person afflicted with this disease 7 other people are affected by it including the immediate family. Thus, fourthly, we would like to support the Raise Act (recognize, assist, include support and engage family caregivers act). Being a full time caregiver puts people who are caregivers at financial disability because they are forced to leave the work force early. this is especially devastating since the majority of caregivers are women who already are at a financial disadvantage compared to men when they stop working not only is their income diminished  but the lose number of credits / earnings eligible for social security upon age of retirement.  since women usually live longer then the burden on society increases. (40 million caregivers who provide 470 billion dollars of unpaid care. 1/4 are millenniums )- thus by supporting this act and making it law we can provide assistance to those of us who have diminished the cost of the government by giving of our time and resources to care for the chronically ill (i.e. PD). this especially important because often times the caregivers themselves (especially as we get older) can also be affected by illness as well.

If you could not join us at the forum this year, you can still do your part by contacting your State Senators and Representatives from your district and ask for the above issues to be considered when voting. Ask your representatives to join the Parkinson’s caucus if not already part of it.

thank you for allowing me to be a representative ….. and let’s bring the  21st century cure act to fruition!  this acts promotes and funds the acceleration of research into preventing and curing serious illnesses.

thank you also for Parkinson’s foundation, Parkinson’s alliance support, and Parkinson’s unity walk.

 

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copyright-2017

all rights reserved – Maria De Leon MD