“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, is a new life for me”, are the words that I want everyone to shout out with me this today! Although, half of the first month of the new year has already swooshed by, there is still time to think about our goals for the year and how we will manage while trying to battle an all encompassing disease. A decade ago, I was feeling unhappy and trapped although seemingly I had it all. Unfortunately, it took a devastating illness to make me realize what was important in my life. Even though the road has been bumpy and full of perils at times it has also been extremely rewarding giving me a new lease on life. This year as I begin not just a new year but also a new decade in my life I hope to continue reaching new goals and soaring to new heights along with all of you.
But in order for us to continue climbing and growing as people and showing our illnesses that we will not be hostage or defeated by Parkinson’s, or any other chronic illness we must start by being S.M.A.R.T. in other words in order to keep moving forward we must set goals that are:
Specific: Make time for what really matters to YOU, your family, & God! Rest, eat well and take medicines on time.
Moderate: Don’t over extend yourself. Remember that we unlike others have even less energy and less mental stamina at times so we should choose our projects carefully. Start small on a goal or project and build your success by mastering that one thing at a time. We can’t just get up one day and expect to write a novel if never written before (believe me I tried- it took a lot of work). There is a learning curve to everything worth doing even for us to overcome our physical and mental impediments.
Achievable: Focus on reaching plausible goals- stop falling, stop choking, exercise once a week etc. Always act and think in terms of what you CAN do and achieve rather than on what you CANNOT do. Example, this week I will try not to miss my noon dosages. Instead, I will set an alarm to remind me to take my medications as scheduled.
Recordable: Remember that you cannot manage what you can’t objectively record. Go ahead keep a diary of your progress (or lack of). this will make you accountable. This will help you and your doctor know what you must work on together.
Time-Specific: Review your goals monthly, weekly if struggling. This way you can trouble shoot and change direction with greater ease if having trouble. This requires introspection and being honest with oneself. Healing begins from inside out after all.
If you are S.M.A.R.T in all areas of your life not just those related to your illness you can achieve anything and really be able to shout …”I am feeling good today!” Just as I have learned. So stop procrastinating, feeling sorry for yourself and take back control of your life and start living to the fullest. It won’t be easy but it will be very rewarding I promise.
Lyrics by Michael Buble _ “I am feeling good”; ‘The word for you today” by Bob Gass
All Rights reserved by Maria De Leon MD
“Where there is no vision people will perish.” Proverbs 29:18
This year as I renew my strength and hope in God, I ponder on all the good and bad things that happened last year. Despite the losses and tribulations. I am grateful for all the lessons learned, new friends and adventures had along the way.
After a few months of down time following a string of doctors’ visits, myriad of new tests along with new lupus (SLE) diagnosis to compliment my Parkinson’s (which was beginning to feel lonely), it is time to start a new chapter in my life. As all the pages of the New Year remain blank, I think about developing a new vision that will provide me with endless stories, adventures, trials and triumphs that will comprise a new chapter. This process will be one more stepping stone in achieving a new dream. As I sit quietly contemplating of what my direction should be next waiting on God to lead the way I think about the importance of having a dream for all us especially for those of us who live with chronic illnesses in our lives.
The life lessons involved in making a dream or goal come true are the same lessons we must learn as patients.
When we develop a vision the same tests required to bring that dream into fruition are the same steps required to overcome living with a chronic illness. If you can find a dream and make it come true you can essentially do anything!
But first one must have a dream in order to make it come true.
Once my dream was to become a neurologist. Having achieved that dream has giving me the strength to keep fighting in the midst of many physical and emotional new obstacles. I discovered that a vision is what gives us direction, creativity and resilience.
Without it we run the risk of becoming passive, aimless, and vulnerable to giving up.
Thus, it is important for all of us to have a vision. Is not always clear what our goal should be what our next step should be or what direction to take. It took me a couple of years after my Parkinson’s diagnosis to find a clear new purpose in my life- keep advocating for my patients and all PD around the globe.
Before I could do this like now, I must first wait to have a new goal (vision). This requires patience, discipline and above all the ability to overcome challenges (for us this means often times overcoming physical and emotional limitations).
Is not easy to go after a vision.
I am sure there is something you worked hard to get. Remember the thrill of achievement and accomplishment? I believe you can do it again if you just set your mind to it.
Now as we stand on the horizon of a new unexplored chore, we need to be mindful of passing the following 4 tests that will help us overcome any obstacles this illness or any other curve life could throw our way.
1. Faith Test …we must be strong and believe in a better tomorrow even when everyone around us says there is no way you can make it. I am testament of being relentlessness …even when all the doctors prognosis have been grim I am still standing here by grace of God and still BELIEVE in a cure.
2. Patience Test …I have learned that in life like in science nothing happens overnight. We must learn to wait on God’s time not our own. Yet, having said this many great strides in neurology have been made in the right direction to making peoples life’s better.
3. Strength Test…Sometimes we may find ourselves discouraged alone frightened devoid of family and friends with no support group. We have all felt this way at one point or another. This is the time to remain strong in your convictions. Think about how much you have overcome and how far you have traveled. You can certainly do it again if you don’t give room to negative thought. My motto and yours should be-This too shall pass. I have been through many difficult times which I did not think I could or would survive. Surely, I cried but I did not die. Once the tears stopped the sun came out again and I learned to be happy once more. I have learned that even when one dream died there are many more inside of me and that my life has so many facets, it is much more than any one dream or any one illness I might have.
4. Focus Test…We can easily be derailed and deterred if we focus inward on us instead of outwards towards helping others. If we concentrate on helping others and keep moving forward even at a crawls pace we can climb a mountain. It all begins with a single positive thought- “I can & I will”
So today, I am encouraging everyone to follow these steps. In the meantime keep your spirit up and your gifts and talents sharpened so when the times comes to reach your vision you will not be defined by any illness.
Happy New Year to all my friends, families and followers!
All rights reserved By Maria L. De Leon
“In all things give thanks…” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
As the years go by, I find that it is the small things in life that truly matter. It is these things that make a life worth living and worth remembering – so this thanksgiving season I like to express my gratitude for the small things that punctuate my life in the midst of my ongoing ever complex not one but two chronic illnesses. Having now been diagnosed with lupus as well!
This year has been a year of many important milestones- celebrating 20th anniversary, turning 50, getting the opportunity to be a ‘starlet’ for a week, reuniting with long lost friends, honored to give first all women with Parkinson’s conference in Indiana, had the honor to be part of an avant-garde weekend retreat for Parkinson’s patients and their caregivers in South Dakota with nearly a 100 in attendance, being part of a pilot program to help young women to grow spiritually, learn life skills, and be empowered in the midst of their circumstances in order to thrive as successful adults turning into tomorrow’s fearless mothers, wives, friends, professionals and leaders. Finally, I also had the privilege of having my ‘parkinsonsdiva’ blog be recognized twice as one of the BEST! In the PD community (This of course could not happen without all you wonderful people (women) who take time to read it and make it one of the best! thank you!)
I was touched by one of the most beautiful common experiences which took an unexpected twist for a memorable and meaningful events of my life just when I needed hope and encouragement the most.
We all know that most of our lives are punctuated by peaks and valleys and although we wish we could go from peak to peak there is still something beautiful and comforting in the valleys. The valleys in biblical times is where one was most certain to find God and healing could commence from inside out. But aside from finding salvation in the least likely of places, we also have signs that continue to inspire us and gives us hope in our daily walks. When my dad was terminally ill, I witnessed the most magnificent double rainbow as I was driving home full of tears on my way back from the hospital and upon seeing such spectacular view I felt at peace and knew everything was going to be okay.
Four years later, about the same time my dad started his downward decline I began to have serious medical issues which have been taking me away to some extent from you and the things I love. Yet, on my way back from a very long and arduous trip to the hospital and a slew of specialist as I dosed off while my mom drove, I saw the edge of a rainbow. I wondered out loud if anyone had ever seen the end of a rainbow- after all they are said to be full circles which I had privilege of seeing once before in the Las Vegas. Perhaps there instead of a pot of gold I could find a greater treasure like health once more.
Suddenly, I began to see one rainbow after another all sizes and brilliance and then we came to the end of a rainbow it merged right into the spot where our car was standing at the light but if you looked up it seem to sprout out of us from inside the car. I sat up and marveled at the phenomenon but in the next 40 minutes of our journey this occurrence took place at least 4 more times.-lifting my sadness, and strengthening my weakening resolve to keep on fighting for the people and the things I love most. Just to let me know that these signs from heaven were not mere coincidences that he still was in control of my live and my well-being and that my faith in God had been duly noted for once we arrived to a sunny home leaving rain behind- when I stepped out once more as the sun was beginning to set amidst a purplish sky there it was once more a splendid rainbow across the sky.
You may say, how can I give thanks living with PD? Or how can I find joy in my present circumstances? Believe me, I understand your trepidation. Is not easy to feat to face our fears but you can do it because you are not alone. We (especially me) are here to share the rainbows with you to help find your inner peace and conquer the valleys of loneliness, illness, frustration, and hopelessness. As I have learned to conquer my fears of living life with a progressive debilitating illness and face head on an uncertain future by believing in God you too can find harmony and give thanks in the midst of adversity.
Although, there have been many losses I have also experienced many great things this year when is all added up the pluses will definitely outweigh the negatives. I continue to be grateful for my health however failing it maybe at times, my family, friends and the whole Parkinson’s community who has invited me into their homes.
All rights reserved by Maria De Leon MD
Before Parkinson’s (any chronic illness, we all “lived like water flowing down a hill..going in a single direction until we splashed” against a rock which has forced us to find a new path.
A Relationship by definition is the way two or more people are connected but more importantly how they behave towards one another. As long we live in this world, we will always have relationships some of which are closer and more intimate than others. These latter ones are the ones that become more deeply impacted and can be totally uprooted by our behavior, the choices we make and the things that impact our lives.
We know that no two people are ever alike and the fashion in which we deal with stressful situations is no exception.
This is the time when boundaries will be pushed to the limit.
So it should not be a big surprise that when major life stresses occur in our life’s any and all relationships will be put to the test. The hardest hit are always the ones closest to us like our immediate family and close friends.
I too have lost relationships of decades because the person I thought would understand my shortcomings would understand. Although, the losses hurt and the relationship mourned I had to come to terms that my health was more important.
How do we keep our most valued relationships from becoming part of an UN-salvageable shipwreck?
Setting appropriate boundaries.
We can’t expect to have good relationships or understanding of our needs; much less be able to tell our friends and family what we like to get from them to help us continue being the friend, partner, lover, sister, and mother. Although, these will have to undergo some type of modifications to allow for life’s changes in both parties.
Discuss gently with the people you love, the specific issues you have and then try to find ways to get around these issues. For instance, I tell my friends and family that in order to protect my limited energy/time that may be needed for a higher priority, I reserve the right to cancel a commitment especially if I am not well.
Sometimes however despite our best efforts casualties will occur and we must learn to let go.
When we set boundaries saying what we will and will not accept in our lives it forces the other person to evaluate their own boundaries.
How you handle these strains depends on the intimacy of relationship and how valuable that friendship etc. Some relationships can’t be dissolve such as familial ties but can become estranged with lack of communication.
I am sure all of us have experienced strained relationships during our lives particularly after receiving a Parkinson’s diagnosis. At times is hard even for us to accept our own illness much less for others who are mere spectators to fully understand our condition as outsiders.
For instance, my close friends know that my life changes day to day and so in making social plans we have learned to give each other leeway in changing plans last minutes as long as we both get the same opportunity. Equally we are all open to spontaneous planning to gather. In my case, people that have trouble accommodating to this my new life and insist on making plans way in advance and or in getting upset if things change last minute have been for the most part excluded from my social circle. Similarly because of my ups and downs and loss of voice along with all my other demands, I have adopted communicating with my special friends and family members for the most part via text. This way we are constantly in communication. However, there have been those that insisted and got upset if I was not able to speak directly with them at the time they need me without understanding my own issues and did not want to compromise as to how and when we spoke. These types of demanding behavior even from long term friendships have resulted in breakage of a friendship. But like a bad hair do you must simply accept it and know that you will get another chance to try something new and perhaps even better.
Because we don’t live in a vacuum all of our actions have consequences. You must speak up and let the person know how you feel and is up to that person to respond positively or ignore your circumstances. If that person makes no effort in meeting you half way perhaps is time to rethink that relationship.
Develop healthy boundaries say YES to good things and NO to bad things! Speak your mind gently without feeling guilty but remember that those around you have the SAME right to decide what they deem BEST for them!
all rights reserved by Maria De Leon MD