Looking for the Lovely in Life: by Maria De Leon

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Suffering creates patience and patience builds character and character builds hope.”

Romans 5:3-5

 

It is easier to find things to be happy about when things are looking up and everything is going our way. However, when we are faced with a chronic illness, especially as our strenght diminishes looking and finding lovely things around us, which reminds us of brighter days and better tomorrow’s, is not always an easy feat.

I love the word lovely…it means beauty beyond compare. Something that is worth loving and fighting for. In the Bible Queen Esther was described as lovely. this is the same word I would use to describe the love of my life- simply lovely!

Lately, as I have once more been confronted with declining health, I started thinking about this word which unfortunately is not use very much in our society. the power of this word led me to think about the loveliness of God in my life through the years. Now more than ever, I wish to again hold on to that loveliness and beauty  as I find myself being torn yet again about knowing what needs to be done from a doctor’s perspective  while being terribly unhappy as a ‘impatient’ patient that needs to submit herself once more to the medical scrutiny and becoming a test subject to determine my full health issues and get back on track.

As I gear up for an extensive week of testing which involves, poking, prodding and a bit of educated guessing I really have to focus on the lovely things in my life to get me through this rough patch where I may become worse before I am better; or discover another bad problem which I am not ready to accept or deal with just yet. All the while trying to maintain my composure, hope, faith, and a daily routine especially as the new school year is about to commence with all of its challenges and demands.

When we are down and troubled we as humans sometimes just want to quit and give up . But this is the time when we need to persevere the most.

How do we persevere in the midst of trials and hardships?

We do so by finding the lovely in our lives. Looking for lovely is akin to remembering someone we love deeply and is no longer present or near by.

I am sure you are all aware of what I am referring to. when you love someone wholeheartedly, everything reminds you of that person.

Similarly, when you are down and trying to hold on conjure up those images of people and places which brought great joy and comfort. Think about all the situations in the past which seemed bleak  yet; you were able to overcome through perseverance. Look around at the beauty of a sunset, or the colors of the changing seasons, or the calmness of a wintery scene. All of them are beautiful in their own unique way and serve a purpose.

Appreciate the changes that are inevitable as the seasons. Look forward to new discoveries, new beginnings, times of rest and pruning as we welcome the unexpected changes and surprises. Me suddenly having a mini stroke and pulmonary embolism certainly was out of the blue and unforeseen but  I am learning to embraced it as a way to enhance my patience, since this has always been one of my worst traits. As the above verse came to mind, I guess in order to achieve patience one must suffer. I got a disease that makes me slow in more ways than one. But, patience is not the end goal rather than living a life full of loveliness and hope as my character is further enhanced and stripped of things that make me less than lovely and keep me from my work of helping others.  So as I undergo further testing and evaluation, I will meet friends that remind me of beautiful things, I will cherish the love of the man I love, talk more with God and appreciate His goodness in my life even as I write this. Then use what I learn to take the next step in my journey in life with Parkinson’s disease.

copyright-2016

all rights reserved – Maria De Leon MD

(inspired by Bible study of same name )

How to Become A Parkinson’s Woman Who Does NOT Quit!: By Maria De Leon

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I have  fought the good fight, I have finished the race- I have kept the FAITH!”

~2 Timothy 4:7

I feel like I have been gone from you a long time and perhaps by the standards of today where everything is done in a hurry and we want things yesterday…I have.

But, sometimes in order to continue serving and working we must take time to replenish our soul. So, this is precisely what I have being doing the last month and 1/2 to be a better motivational speaker and writer but above all a much better person. Of course, I took time to celebrate another wonderful year of life. I am particularly grateful to say I am getting to that age where age is just a state of mind and not an actual number since 10 years ago I was told I might not be around longer than 6 months!

All the traveling I have done over the last 7 months doing women & PD  work along with motivational speaking to various Parkinson’s groups has been a wonderful experience allowing me to meet all sorts of incredible women  and people across the country who are living with and caring for loved ones with PD.

You women are my source of inspiration- women like my friend Nan Little who despite having PD was able to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

What I have learned in my own journey of life and with PD in the last decade is that strong women NEVER quit on themselves or others no matter how challenging the task is or how though the going gets.

My own personal strength comes from my faith in God and believe you me when I tell you this is by no means perfect. I falter a lot and have to start over sometimes multiple times a day ….

I have learned 5 secrets which strong women who never quit employ- this from a Bible study on Ruth. Ruth was a woman who lost everything…her family, her husband, her friends and her own faith for a while but never let go of HOPE. I am sure many of you like me have found themselves in this situation.

What then must we do to Persevere?

When all we want to do is QUIT and hide under the covers or we simply just don’t FEEL like we can go on a second longer? 

#1 We must ACCEPT our present circumstances even if we do not like them. No one enjoys a hard lesson, having a hard life, or having PD. But, having Parkinson’s may be the way to a more refined life (happier, better you). I know that although I don’t wish I had PD I have become a kinder, nicer, more caring, more patient person than I was before.

#2 We must FOLLOW THROUGH despite our feelings. These days we give to much emphasis to how we feel and what we feel; but sometimes feelings can be misleading and can paralyze us. We must have enough discipline and conviction to keep moving forward whether we like it or not. This is what got me through all those years of struggling as a student with little money and little to eat because I had a goal to become a doctor! Even if I did not like the hours, walking across a deserted Parkway lined with homeless people at 3 am, in the middle of winter storm and had to walk across miles of plowed snow blocking side walks freezing my knee caps and face off –  I HAD to go! The same with PD. Sometimes we use it as an excuse to forgo commitments and become undisciplined in our life. Yet if we learn from a strong woman like Ruth despite her anger, despair, brokenness, and sadness she still went out to pick up the left overs in the field to eat.

I have discovered in my own life that when you are willing to follow through no matter what things just happen- you suddenly find yourself in the right place at the right time meeting the right people. That’s how I chose my undergraduate which led me to becoming a Parkinson’s specialist and found PDF who also led me to you fine women.

#3 We must Keep our hands OPEN. When you are accessible, people can come to you freely and can count on you. You can’t very well be a mentor to others or support others if you are not approachable and are mean, bitter and off-putting. Life will always be messy before it gets better.

#4 We must have emotional generosity It is easy to donate money or write a check or give of your time when everything is well and you have time to spare. But, what about giving what you don’t have? I once was going to a bible study of course I was running late as usual because my pills were not working, I was throwing up, I was having a hard time dressing and so on…you all have been there at one point or another. when I finally made it I was relieved to be there although was already feeling bad for not being able to come on time so I certainly did not need a sermon from one of the elder ladies who suddenly snapped at me for being tardy and pointed out to be that if she being an older woman could make it on time – I certainly could! of course, I’m don’t have to tell you that this did not suit especially since I was already feeling physically ill. although, at that moment I was feeling less than loving to say the least I held my tongue and asked her instead if everything was okay with her because she was not being herself? she broke in tears..  She had just being diagnosed with cancer! Needless to say, all my anger melted away instantaneously and even though I was feeling lousy I found somehow courage to stay with her and console her until she found relief. Interestingly, the more I gave of myself the more I found to give and ended up feeling better the rest of the day. The best way to have your needs met is to give others what you need!

#5 Finally, keep moving forward in faith even if you don’t see the end of the rainbow.. so many people have given up just before the crossed the finish line and this is a worst feeling to have. For some reason we women are the worst at this, we are impatient when we don’t see the desired results immediately but like climbing a steep mountain with winding treacherous paths, the best way to keep moving forward is one step at a time in the right direction and keep waiting!  I don’t want us to become like that famous woman who set out to row across the English channel and went on and on through all kinds of perils and overcome with fatigue, self-doubt and exhaustion gave up a few feet away because the fog had clouded her vision.

Cry if you must- but NEVER give up!

Sources:

5 habits of women who don’t give up by Niki Koziarkz

copyright-2016

all rights reserved – Maria De Leon MD

Unraveling Complexity of Being a Chronically ill patient: by Maria De Leon

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A decade ago, I would have sworn I was the healthiest person; sure I had minor inconveniences like thyroid cancer at young age and migraines since childhood. But my life on the whole was great! Not that is not great now just different…I took one medication for my thyroid and every so often I needed a migraine abortive medication. I rarely set foot on the premises of a pharmacy. I would take my thyroid mediation like clock work without much fuzz. I NEVER heard from insurance, pharmacist, or other doctors regarding myself. of course, I spent countless hours dealing with all of these regarding my patients. each year, the number of hours I spent on phone and written letters on behalf of my patients steadily increased by now most doctors with a busy practice like mine spend a great deal more time trying to get around the bureaucracy and paper work involved just to get patients what they need to get better. the most frustrating thing besides arguing with insurances about approval of much needed medications was arguing with them about approving benefits to cover their care especially in terminal cases. Too often the help came too late.

Now, I am a walking, breathing, veritable pharmacy – my purse has grown over the years just to accommodate the ever growing number of medications I require to function; which invariably keeps expanding. Each time I think I have stabilized, there pops something new to throw a wrench in the system. Just the other day, I spent the morning at yet another unforeseen doctor’s visit due to acute labyrinthitis from an ear infection and guess what? More meds were thrown in the mix. Now, I have been assigned both a nurse and a pharmacy specialist to my case.

First, where were these people when I needed them to help out with my patients care? Secondly, in theory having a past medical illness or chronic disease  is not supposed to matter in the coverage of an individual by any insurance. Yet, in reality all of us who live with a chronic disease is being analyzed by some committee somewhere as to how much “resources” we are using. These resources which include medical, laboratory, ancillary, and pharmaceutical services are precious commodities which yearly are contracted to the lowest bidder. While, the premiums and out of pocket expenses continue to go higher as the coverage for those commodities continue to go lower for those of us who happen to have the misfortune of having a serious medical problem. Everyone who lives with PD and other chronic illness can testify to this fact.

After laughing out loud in disbelief for having NOT one BUT two specialized people dedicated to help with my care, I began to shake my head regarding the absurdity of our medical system. After speaking with these well meaning individuals who did not realized, I was a doctor, neither one had any answers to my REAL problems or concerns. No! I DON’T NEED SPECIAL EQUIPMENT, TRANSPORTATION, OR HOME SERVICES- ALL I NEED IS APPROVAL OF MY EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE MEDICATIONS AND TESTS so I don’t require ANY of the above and won’t end-up in the hospital as many of my patients have in the past due to poor coverage of medications and frequent changes dictated NOT by real medicine rather by pure economics!

So, after an hour each, they both politely stated they could NOT help with my problems. They could not convince the people they work for that these medicines are keeping me functioning and that perhaps might even help me return to gainful employment and at minimum are keeping me out of the hospital and getting worse medical problems if they were only able to approve the PET scan my physician ordered to make sure my cancer has not returned. But, to no avail. The answer was ALWAYS NO! But, will call you again next month at the same time. No wonder I like that new song of Meghan Trainor ” No.” “My number is no!, my name is no!, my {everything} is NO!” when I talk to the insurance companies…so do we need to let it go?

I hope we DON’T let it go otherwise we as a society will continue to hurt and suffer the consequences and end-up in a state not very dissimilar to the one in Mexico and other countries where socialized medicine has taken root.

I still cringe at the terrible experience my family underwent while my grandfather was hospitalized for a GI bleed in my hometown in Mexico. First, after having to transfer him to a “private” hospital because there were no medicines or even much staff at the government owned facility-the specialist he needed, not unlike what is already happening here in many smaller communities, was 5 hours away in another state and could not come for several days. So, he continued to bleed for which he required 14 pints of blood which by the way the family had to procure on their own because the government has no money to maintain a blood bank. He ended with 2 mayor strokes subsequently- which of course I witnessed personally and was helpless to do anything about since there was no treatment available for what he needed.

I am afraid that as the population continues to age and incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s, strokes and other chronic debilitating diseases begin to rise the quality of life for each individual will steadily decline in this country despite all the major medical and technological advances this country has unless we step up and demand change. please contact PAN/MJfox  @ http://www.parkinsonsaction.org  and after June 1st @ http://www.michaeljfox.org/policy

-let them know its not ok to have a monthly struggle just to get the medicines your doctor prescribed or have to choose between basic necessities and affording expensive medications which now include many popular generic brands which in some cases cost the same or more than the brand! and remember to just say No!

copyright-2016

all rights reserved – Maria De Leon MD

 

 

My Experince with the Evolution of Retail Prescriptions:By Maria De Leon

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Every time I go to the pharmacy as of late, the joy seems to be knocked right out of my soul for at least an hour. Used to be that I could just call and have my prescriptions delivered to my office no questions asked. Then as the number of medications began proliferating due to my Parkinson’s diagnosis I had to start doing drive through. First, no problem would request pick up and a handful of bottles would be given to me at a reasonable price. Then came the next stage…”please move to next window,” wherein I would sit there patiently each time longer and longer as the pharmacist would have to argue with insurance about coverage with an ever increasing escalation of price and a decrease number of pills given. This eventually led me to having to park and go into the pharmacy to discuss alternative options. Then came the inevitable forced changed by new Obamacare to get Medicare. Although, I had perfectly good insurance which although expensive it allowed me to get my medications without much hassle other than increasing yearly out of pocket cost. But suddenly because of my diagnosis, I was told to be “fortunate” to qualify for Medicare so my other insurance simply refused to cover expenses because under new law I WAS eligible for this so called wonderful privilege of having Medicare! After two months of trying to get the RIGHT Medicare coverage, I obtained the one government assigned to me NOT one I chose because I had too many illnesses. Was this new law not supposed to give insurance to all people independent of health status?

Well, I got insurance. I guess they forgot to qualify as to what sort of coverage people like me with chronic illnesses in reality will obtain!

Now, no longer can I get the medications I want, when I need but is a monthly battle of wits between me, the pharmacist and the insurance company taking a couple of hours at times just to get my meds and sometimes even after this length of time even with letters from the insurance company stating I have approval of medications in hand the insurance company refuses to honor this contract leaving me with two choices due without medicine or pay upwards of $300 per prescription.  All the while, as I sit there I see person after person of all ages and walks of life get the same comment…” Sorry, your insurance did not approve this prescription” or “you must get authorization from your physician first,” as if physicians sole job was to spend all day filling out the hundreds of Forms requested on a daily basis by their patient clientele. No wonder doctors are currently experiencing more burn out and frustration and disappointment in their career choices than ever before. They have no time to treat patients or to practice their calling because filling out mundane useless paperwork. web_banner_2_300x250

Each time invariably they will say how desperately they need their medication for management of current illness requesting retail price without insurance and the great majority have a sinking saddened look as they walk away without their much needed prescriptions. This is because in the last several years’ retail prescription prices have increased six times faster than 1.5 % inflation. This is according to the new AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) report. Even the prices of so called generic drugs has escalated to the point of in some cases being more expensive than brand name drugs. The average annual prescription cost has reached new heights of over $11,000 which according to the experts is nearly 75% of the average annual Social Security benefits.

If these trends continue people are simply going to stop medications which are no longer affordable increasing the taxpayers burden of having to not only pay for the extra cost of medications; but also for an increase number of institutionalized people with chronic disabilities like Parkinson’s disease and other neurologically progressive illnesses such as stokes, and Alzheimer’s which will invariably result as their disease progresses due to absence of adequate treatment. As it is now, my opinion and that of many of my colleagues is that many Parkinson’s patients are not well controlled and suffer unnecessary side effects and disabilities due to the contra into in treatment options dictated by each individual insurance plus the increased limited availability of samples or assisted drug programs for patients to qualify under.  For instance although there are no generic alternatives to Azilect many insurances insist of altering doctors recommendations of use of this medication for an older drug Edepryl which has a generic form known as Selegeline HCl. Although both are in same class, they are altogether different in composition. Azilect is much better tolerated and effective MAO-B inhibitor while the former acts as an inhibitor to both A & B.  Another  example for which I believe so many patients suffer from dyskinesias is the persistent use of older traditional levodopa/carbidopa compounds in lieu of newer intermediate release formulations which are shorter acting and have more side effects than newer compounds in my experience. pdftulip

These newer formulations like Rytary are upwards of $ 500 a month no one can take this at these rates especially if they have to take another 10 medications half of which are almost s expensive so they opt for cheaper drugs with higher side effects decreasing their quality of life in the long run. And since we can’t even rely on cheaper generic drugs to offset  the cost of brand name medications and specialty drugs we are threading very dangerous waters leading to serious implications not just for us with chronic diseases like PD but for the entire health care system which will inevitably implode on itself at this rate unless we do something.  As I said many times, we must lobby for our rights to have access to the medications that our physicians feel are necessary for us to have a true quality of life  and not what our insurances or government think is best for us! Lest we become a nation over run with vexation and cost in attempting to care for an increasingly growing elderly population with increased  neurological diseases like PD. Take action and start demanding change today by writing to your state and national congressmen and letting PAN  (Parkinson’s a ion Network) / MJFOX  what the real concern is for it makes no difference if we have a hundred new PD compounds no one can afford except the extremely wealthy.

So, I take my daily Rytary samples with a great deal of gratitude and introspection since it is affording me to feel like myself again after 10 years of battling with this disease. but as I do I am wondering how long I will have to continue feeling like ‘me’ because when samples dry up no longer will I be able to afford to take this expensive drug. I will continue to pray for change in the system for all who have the right to access to medications that allow them to be themselves once more. In the meantime, I will also continue to make use of my time, efforts and  productivity to advance Parkinson’s awareness, fight for better treatments along with a cure with equal affordable access of these treatments for all who currently live with PD.

Together we can #EndParkinsons

copyright-2016

all rights reserved – Maria De Leon MD

 

 

Fast & Furious Life of a “Diva”: By Maria De Leon

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The year has taken off at a fast pace and I am barely able to keep up…my goal of returning to the pool and walking has not quite panned out- already beginning to feel the weight of it all. I had a wonderful holidays with my family for the first time in almost 10 years I actually felt like celebrating. I was still basking on the joy of tradition and family when life takes an unexpected turn. I should be used to this but with this illness it seems that I become less able to cope with sudden changes and stresses leaving me a bit out of sorts.

My mom had barely left when I receive a call she was hospitalized- no chance to rest. I did a mad dash to Houston and as I approached the hospital a sense of doom, grief and Deja-vu took over me particularly as I walked into the main corridor heading up the elevators to the same floor where my dad had last been hospitalized before the bomb was dropped on our lap. My mom was now across the room my dad had last occupied and we were being taken care of by the same nice hospitalist whose demeanor saddened as well as he entered the room and saw my mom laying there. Upon discharge the attendant was not certain who the patient was since both of us were in pretty bad shape.

Of course after discharge mom could not stay home alone so back to my house we were. So it has been a comedy of errors taking turns caring for each other- the worst days were when she was extremely in need of my care and I could barely function. The day was especially trying as I had to go up and down the stairs to tend to her. By the end of the day I felt like I was crawling up the stairs. I kept reminding myself that at least I got a weeks’ worth of exercise, as per my account!

Trying to get her down from a high bed to the bathroom when both of us were having various degrees of vertigo and dizziness was something to behold. Equally difficult is attempting to sleep with her since she needs rest but the stress of it all has kicked my REM behavior into over drive. More medicines for me and a bit more for her.

Then the hardest part came telling her she has a brain tumor – although most likely benign still a “BRAIN TUMOR.” Having had my grandmother die from a similar condition does not sit well with me. I try to remain optimistic and not let her see my fear and worry. I crumble a bit more inside as I imagine not having her around, I gasp for air. Even though I try not to think about it, I wonder is this also my future – something else to look forward to?

So I do my routine mental status exam to ensure no interruption of brain function but I seem to be struggling more with word finding than she is – takes me 3 hours to recall the name of a “hummingbird.” I am exhausted!

I just pray for strength to care for her and for complete resolution of her tumor. Meantime, I keep holding on to Hope and faith and focusing all of my energy on my beautiful daughter. I say to myself “Que Sera, Sera!” As I drift to sleep with thoughts of ….sitting by the beach in Hawaii.

Woman to Woman: How to be a Successful Parkinson’s Mentor Even When You Think You Have Nothing Else to Give. By Dr. De Leon

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photoDo I Have the stuff mentors are made off?

First, when you are diagnosed with a chronic illness like Sacha and I have as countless other women out there who have been given similar prognosis have wondered at one time or another whether they still had something to teach? When an illness such as Parkinson’s disease first strikes invariably we feel at a loss and maybe a bit like the wind has been taken out of our sails. Some perhaps have even felt like their best years were behind and their dreams were now over so how could I imagine asking anyone to become a mentor?

Well, I want you to close your eyes and think of someone who was there for you at some point in your life when you truly needed a friend or some guidance-are you smiling now? I bet that person brings all kinds of warm fuzzy feelings. Now, you are really thinking, I REALLY don’t have the RIGHT stuff! But, when you stop to think about it that person that took time to see you through the tough times and encouraged you to grow and develop your talents was not a super human being – wonder woman with a cape and truth lasso leaping tall buildings performing heroic deeds although they might have seemed like that to you. Instead these wonderful creatures we learned to lean on, depend on, trust, and bring into the fold of our families started as mentors giving the best part of themselves in such a way that they helped us become the very best we could be. We all have unique talents and skills which could be used to build and foster others talents. After my diagnosis, I thought I would never be able to work with Parkinson’s patients again and ten years later I am more deeply involved in the lives of so many people with PD throughout the world in a level that I never would have thought possible. Because I was fortunate to have many great female role models, one of whom continues to play a vital role in my life even after the change in career and onset of PD that I feel compelled to emulate her (Dr. Mya Schiess) as a great woman healer and mentor.

Remember, the best way to succeed in life and be truly happy is to do something meaningful for another human being- this is a biblical principle.

When you become involved in someone else’s well- being you suddenly begin to heal as well. Give it a shot. Don’t worry about being qualified. No one is ever truly qualified until they begin the journey. All it takes is a genuine desire to help others.

Still not certain?

Can you answer any of the following?

  • I have fallen, failed and been hurt
  • I have endured disappointments
  • I want a better world for my children
  • I too live with a chronic illness and feel a need to help those with similar plight

If you answered YES to any of these you have the STUFF to be a Mentor…me

 

What is the role of a Mentor?

Now, that you have seen how truly gifted you are and how you may begin to feel better about your lot in life through mentoring, you are still wondering if you have what it takes. After all, you don’t have much energy these days and sometimes you feel like all you do is go to the doctor or take care of others already being a mom, a wife, and a million other tittles imposed by those around you.

I would suggest start with practical things that would benefit someone with your same plight or interests. For instance, if you have another woman you are trying to help (can be someone older or younger) may offer her a ride to the store or doctor if she needs it and your schedule allows it (you are already going in that direction or to the same place). This way you are being of assistance to another and not costing you much time or effort. Yet, the sentiment is extraordinarily regarded. So be a servant.

Sometimes, what we really need is for someone to hear us. This is especially truly when we are first given bad news. Use the feelings that you felt and allow yourself to empathize and sympathize for some else in those same shoes. We don’t really expect anyone to solve all of our problems or cure our illness, but a shoulder to cry on is a much appreciated and highly valued thing. This simple act of listening and encouraging someone is typically the first step to a long meaningful relationship returning confidence and worth to the person in need. You can do this over the phone or skype but much better and more effective in person. Be a listener.

At other times, it may be required that you help someone make important life decisions based on your experience and their abilities – a great deal of finesse is required as well as love for the person you are helping for you will not be merely dispensing advice but actual counsel with purpose of making their lives better. A wise counselor always listens more than she talks. Use open ended questions. Be a Counselor.

Finally, you have been where your friend has not and know the perils and victories. Lead the path with love allowing her to make her own decisions. You cannot impose or insist that they do things your way to arrive at the same destination. They must try out things for themselves feeling what is right for them so they can be successful. Learning to find their own unique voice, talent or skill to share with the world that will make them shine just as you shine despite your illness. Sacha’s talent is art, mine is still teaching. Be a Guide.

AS we begin to discover what makes us different in the world of PD from our male counterparts, we should also begin to build up one another as women encouraging, lifting, educating, so that the women with PD that come behind us can be the next leaders, counselors, advocates, guides, researchers and friends for the next generation of women with PD who may even unlock the key to the CURE!

Remember ” A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how STRONG she is until she gets in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt

@copyright 2015

all rights reserved by Maria De Leon

New Year’s Resolutions for a Life with PD worth Living!: By Maria De Leon

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Happy new year to all my friends, family, and loved ones! I would like to thank all of you first of all for choosing to walk with me in this PD journey through life. Having wonderful friends such as you by my side is what life is all about. As we commence a brand new year full of possibilities in which every page is waiting to be written, I would like to leave you with a few thoughts to make your journey with Parkinson’s, or whatever chronic illness, or struggle you are facing in life a much richer and fuller experience.  My learning after nearly a half of century of living can be summed up in five parts.

5 things I want us to keep in mind as we make our mark through the New Year.

  • Stand still
  • Listen
  • Learn
  • Have Faith
  • Give back

 

These things I have observed to be the fundamental elements for a life worth living. Although a few skeptics along the road have question my positive attitude and optimism in life as well as my experience with Parkinson’s. A few people especially women have told me that I must have led such a ‘charmed’ and ‘happy’ life to be so full of hope and optimism. As I nearly chocked on the caramel I was chewing on, I thought “charming” and lucky was not a word I would have ever used to describe my life. For dear readers, I have dealt with my share of pain and disappointments and seen the ugly side of human nature yet I choose to believe that everyone has something good in them and everyone deserves a second chance.

First, I was born with a severe birth defect which according to the doctors I was NEVER going to walk so I spent the first year of my life in all kinds of casts and contraptions. Yet thanks to the love of my mom, grandfather and the grace of God, the right doctor was found to correct my problem. Ever since I started walking I have not stop and don’t intent this PD to stop me either!

I also have had multiple cancers on top of the early onset Parkinson’s diagnosis which was an irony in itself.  I had a hard pregnancy making me unable to bear more than one child, yet the joy of being a mom of that one precious child has made up for all the pain. I lost several loved ones within a two year span in which the two most precious beings in my life were included. I tended to thousands of Parkinson’s patients through the years many of whom I watch die and have wept at their bed sides along with their families. I wept even harder at my dad’s bedside when he was suddenly taken ill with cancer.

Even though these are but a few of the struggles I have faced in my life, they serve witness to the fact that like you I too have had a life full of challenges of ups and downs. Sometimes life led me to dark unfamiliar places. I have struggled physically and emotionally with gut wrenching burdens which have stretched me to my limits and then pushed me further still. But, through it all I have learned that without these low valleys and dark places, I would not have found my strength, courage, and faith nor enjoyed the peaks and mountain tops as much. Each and every one of the experiences in my life has served to shape me into the woman I am today who is able to write to you and share her experiences with you to help guide your path with this chronic illness and give you hope and a ray of light for the dark days ahead.

As I recall the words of that one woman who sneered at me as she was perusing my book looking at me sideways exclaiming “what gives you the authority to write about PD?” Simply put: MY ENTIRE LIFE JOURNEY with PD! So I am extremely glad I had the courage, thanks to some of those people who have gone from my life too soon, to write “Parkinson’s Diva ” Perhaps someone will find laughter and love once more in their life just as I have despite having and living with  Parkinson’s disease. If only one person has felt better because of my book, I have achieved my goal.  This lady unfortunately was only seeing in me the end product …a woman who has finally learned to accept herself just as she is flaws and all; who has learned patience thanks to PD, when you move like molasses you have no other choice!diva pic

Dear friends, I hope this year you work on being happy with yourself first before making anyone one else happy. This starts with being able to stand alone in solitude and fine tune your hearing to that small still voice inside of you, for mine has never let me down.

Learn to listen– I often quiet myself by first listening to my own breathing and heart beat until they are in sink and quiet. Take time to stand still at least once a day and replenish your thoughts and your energy, Then learn to listen to everything around you like the laughter of your kids, the rustle of the leaves, the whistle of the wind, the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, the silence after the snow has fallen. Particularly listen to other women. I have women friends from all walks of life and all ages because everyone has a story to tell that is powerful and unique and every one of these precious women has accomplished many feats most by the time they reach early adulthood. Make sure you absorb some of their goodness, soak in their wisdom for it is absolutely priceless. I had the absolute pleasure and privilege this past year of meeting and working with some of the most wonderful women both through the Christian women’s Corp & the Women & PD Initiative. Both had so much knowledge and wisdom to impart it was amazing.

Learn from these women, from your parents, your friends, and from anyone you come in contact with in your journey this year, for they too have a story and a lesson to share with you if you listen. Learn especially from those who love you and particularly from those who don’t. Learn to walk in someone else’s shoes as well as to see life through someone else’s eyes. Learn that in order to make a difference you must first take a chance.

Most things that were invented had to be thought up by someone who had to believe in his or her dreams even though no one else could see the same vision; plus think about it they had to have some kind of necessity, be in a low point in their life or be in the dark otherwise there would be no need to grow or change or invent anything. So with this comes Faith that things will work out for the best- that the darkness serves a purpose to hone our night vision. With faith comes hope for a better, happier tomorrow so don’t lose faith!

Finally you have to be willing to give back to others. Funny thing is that in order to grow and develop and actually enjoy life we must stop thinking about ourselves and actually think about others needs first. So this year I want you guys to renew your passions or find new passions, redefine your world, expand your horizons dream bigger dreams, have higher aspirations, broaden your visions, and  stand up for something worth fighting for like helping those less fortune than you in your PD community.

Provide caregivers a helping hand, fight in behalf of the kids with PD mom’s, aid the moms living with PD. Go ahead and confront the things that scare you such as living with a chronic illness and embrace it to the fullest. Make a difference in someone’s life, you can do this by joining me in being part of Women & PD initiative as a mentor, teacher, counselor, and friend. If you follow these guidelines throughout the year, you will discover as I have that by getting involved and truly listening to others and yourself you will change your own life. You will also be replacing laughter for the many heartaches as I have done many of which nearly broke me. However, now I have joys and rainbows where storms once were punctuated by many friends smiling at me along the way.

This 2016, I admonish you all to leave your comfort zone and take a leap of faith by doing that which scares you…interestingly once upon a time I was terrified of public speaking until I was forced to give a commencement speech in front of 1000 plus individuals. Now I do public speaking for a living. Go ahead I challenge you to Join me in me in daring to be yourself and a true “diva”  or “divo” (one that does extraordinary things with their natural talents) living a life with Parkinson’s disease worth living.
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Feeling Distressed Today? by Maria De Leon

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Lately, like so many of you, I too have  been feeling distressed- not being able to show up on time to events, or able to attend prior commitments. I used to be the life of the party and a person who could make plans months and years in advance and always able to keep all my commitments. I know that some of you out there living with chronic illnesses and Parkinson’s for a long time know exactly what I am talking about. I have heard many of you complain about the disappointment and distress felt when you or your loved one are no longer included in invitations to parties, gatherings, dinner etc. because you are also unable to always show -up. It’s rather an unnerving feeling knowing that people don’t count on you any longer or even expect you to show up.

While trying to get my head around these feelings experienced by all of us at one point or another when living with an illness like Parkinson’s, I began thinking about my favorite place- the beach.

I you are like me one that enjoys walking down the shore barefooted getting your feet wet as the waves dance around, you probably have taken inventory of common things found on the beach as you have taken many a leisurely promenade.

You most likely saw pier posts covered in barnacles, distressed boats and oxidized iron as you strolled on by. In another time, like us, they were pristine and remarkable to behold. I want all of us to remember and emphasize the fact that although these objects like us (or rather the way we feel sometimes) are worn, tired, chipped, dented and not so pretty to the naked eye are still Beautiful!

This is because, like us, these objects wear the scars of time, hardship, and experience with pride and genuineness. Perhaps, after the waves of PD or caregiving have pelted your body over and over through the years, you too are feeling like these distressed items. Maybe you once had a great career before PD; but even though it might have been a choice to leave it or make necessary alterations- they no longer exist in their previous form.

Like me you are also completely at peace with your life choices given the cards we have been dealt, yet there may still be days when you might feel alone and distressed. Slighted by someone’s lack of understanding, compassion, or feeling excluded may cause the ‘what-ifs’ to creep in.

But, we must not give in to guilt, sadness, much less anger. However, consider this- the only way an object gets distressed is because it has been the best in its field; therefore continuously used and of service. You have been useful and of benefit to more people than you will ever realize and you have the marks to prove it. Just like the distressed furniture found on an elegant and gorgeous beach home invite us to rest and enjoy the view thus contributing to our life’s story.

The same is true for us who are feeling worn out- you have and persistently contributing much to make someone’s past, present, and future better. Your empty seat at a business meeting, lecture hall, medical team, football game is only an indication that you have been instrumental in forging the next generation of caregivers, advocates, volunteers, citizens, and professional people. Remember, just because at the moment you are not at the table of the ‘movers and shakers’ that does not mean that you are done or finished with the work that God has put in your heart or is your destiny to complete until we are all called Home!

Let us instead dwell on the prospect that our ‘what-ifs’ might at some point blend into the ‘what-now’s.

Walk rather, on the beach or wherever you choose, always with head up high displaying your marks of distinction- which are a confluence of both your hardships and victories knowing that the past chapters were purposeful and of great impact. So, don’t try to fit in or please a crowd to avoid feeling distressed instead be your genuine self proudly displaying your years of wear battling PD along with your very own colorful bright pink eggs – like the ‘leafy sea dragons’  who although they are able to camouflage their eggs choose not to.

Go ahead, embrace your Parkinson’s disease or whatever other illness you might have and be yourself. Those that love you and matter will always be around to comfort you and support you in times of need and will always have a seat reserve just for you!

@copyright 2015

all rights reserved by Maria De León MD

 

Lighthouses: by Maria De Leon

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…”though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” ~ Micah 7:8 NIV

I love lighthouses. Whenever I get a chance to travel to an area known for their lighthouses, I never pass on the opportunity. These grand structures are majestic and mysterious in nature for the power they hold; yet despite their veritable importance they always stand aloof, detached and solitary. However, these magnificently stoic architectural works of art, since no two are alike, serve a very distinct function for those in need.

Sometimes, as in living with a chronic illness like Parkinson’s disease we can become so overwhelmed that we are no longer capable of identifying treacherous terrain in front of our own eyes. If we do not heed the warning of others who have a lighthouse view, the passage can turn unsafe and even dark.

Although, caregivers who are mostly women are increasingly stressed in direct proportion to the number of years spent in the “business” of giving/providing care when help is offered, the extra assistance is not readily accepted as was the case in the care of my father. One of the main issues is guilt. Many caregivers feel ashamed or guilty in admitting they require outside help; thus might even turn it away when offered or not actively seek it. The second problem I encountered in my patients as well as in my family was a sense of duty and responsibility to ease the fears, anxiety, and shame the patient may feel as he or she is losing independence and unwillingness to appear weak in front of a stranger. this was my dad’s problem who refused outside help because ‘no one would take better care of him than my mom and I.”

Here are a few tips to help spouses, care-partners, and caregivers recognize and accept outside assistance by helping them work out their fears and ambivalence.

First, we must convey to them that the perspective is much different and broader with a myriad of options when standing at the top of the lighthouse with a clear view of everything than when in the seashore in the dark and feeling alone.

The temptation to strike out on our own is always present and stronger especially in those of us who are used to taking care of everything and everyone. Initially, more so if the person is very adept, like a ship that disregards the lighthouse warnings, will continue to progress and maybe even be successful in the day to day care of their loved one for a time. Ultimately, causing not just one’s one destruction or demise but that of our loved one whom we are trying to protect; because if you are not well then neither will your loved one who then might have a quicker descent.

Therefore, learn to swim parallel to the riptides heeding the following warnings from the lighthouses in your life to a happier more successful outcome for both you and your partner.

Recognize the warning signs:

  1. Irritability– if you find yourself often frustrated at the person whom you are supposed to care for, including neglect or abuse ( verbal, emotional, physical) -NEED HELP ASAP!
  2. Depressed– you are experiencing symptoms of depression yourself lasting more than 2 weeks- especially if wanting to die, harm yourself or worse harm the person whom you care for, this includes wishing they were dead or would die soon.
  3. Others are worried or concerned about your coping– friends, family are noticing changes in your mood or behavior.

If you find yourself in this group:

  • Allow yourself to feel guilt followed by relief- forgive yourself- don’t be so hard on yourself. You CAN NOT DO IT ALL. NO BODY CAN BE ALL THINGS TO ANYBODY!!! ONLY GOD!!
  • Talk to your physician, a counselor, a spiritual leader.
  • Go to a support group
  • Go to a psychologist/psychiatrist
  • Start making plans for yourself again as you redefine your role as caregiver with assistance/new found help.

Resources for Help:

http://www.eldercare.gov

http://www.shipnpr.acl.gov.

http://www.pdf.org

http://www.caregiving.org

http://www.caregiverstress.com

http://www.assited-living-directory.com

http://www.eldercarelink.com

@copyright 2015

all rights reserbved by Maria De LeonMD

Go PINK & THINK BIG! : by Maria De Leon

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“Don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion!” Muhammad Ali

October is breast cancer awareness month but for those of us who live with Parkinson’s disease in our lives it is always PD awareness month!

But, today I would like to start a new campaign in support of all my Parkinson sisters around the globe who also have had the misfortune of being diagnosed with breast cancer while living with PD. I just spoke to a few young women the other day who are currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer while battling their PD symptoms. Take it from someone who has had the pleasure of having recurrent melanomas and thyroid cancer (increased risk in PD as well) in the midst of PD to sympathize with your plight! Although, technically not the same. However, the anxiety, worry, uncertainty, and initial apprehension are all the same especially when someone with poor  bedside manner calls you after a long period of time after tests, which being in the medical field would only indicate everything was okay, only to be told over the phone test are abnormal and you have 6 months to live!

The stress of having to have multiple doctors visits, possible surgery, followed by chemo, or radiation or both can send your PD symptoms into overdrive! Even if you had no PD any normal person would be spent. The mental anguish of perhaps having a mastectomy weather unilateral or bilateral can be equally heart wrenching. Here you were perhaps never paying a single thought to those mounds of tissue hanging from your chest and might have even complained about them a time or two about the size or shape etc. But, as soon as someone threatens to remove one it suddenly becomes a personal affront on our femininity. Although, we cant rationalize the sudden attachment to these so called breast, we truly grieve for their loss. We suddenly may feel less than we were or less worthy and we feel shame and guilt for thinking such superficial and inconsequential thoughts after all removal may mean saving our lives – yet we grieve. These feelings usually are magnified in the presence of our already debilitating PD illness. So beware. Do not make any decisions when you are depressed- it leads to poor judgment.

I say grieve if you must. It is absolutely normal to feel the loss of something so feminine as your breast. But, don’t dwell on it. you are still you. your beauty comes from within. your spouse or partner will still love you for who you are. you must first love yourself. Talk to your doctor, a counselor, a friend, even throw a party for the loss and celebrate new beginnings- increase medications for depression before undergoing treatment. Put your affairs in order. this will give you added peace of mind and give you some control over your life. Talk to your physician about increasing dopamine medications temporarily to handle the stress of surgery, chemo, radiation etc.

Then concentrate on getting better. Fill yourself with positivity and love. Meditate and fight as if your life depended on it because it does and others are looking up to you! Remember you are strong. You have within you the seed of greatness!

Early Detection is always the key to best outcome with any cancer-especially breast!!

Because unfortunately we women with PD have an increased risk of breast cancer particularly those with the LRRK2 gene we need to always be vigilant. Discuss with your physician this risk so that you can have appropriate follow up especially if already family history of breast cancer.

  • Do routine self -exams-best to do in the shower!
  • Exercise & maintain a healthy weight
  • Breastfeed if possible (decreases risk of breast cancer- too late for me!)
  • Limit alcohol intake which will also aid with your PD symptoms
  • Limit menopausal hormone replacement (still controversial- talk to your neurologist/MDS- some studies have shown reduction of PD risk after intake-not going to change if you already have PD) [Parkinson’s Diva]

GO PINK & THINK BIG- I KNOW YOU ARE BIGGER & STRONGER THAN EITHER DISEASE!!!

Sources:

http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/16/6/1081.full

http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/102/6/371.full