A week in the life of a Parkinson’s diva- by Maria De Leon

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“It is a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together.” ~unknown

It is always nice when things work out serendipitously. What can be better than combining one’s own passions?  I tell you there is a great joy when your passions and interest and mesh together as it did this past week for me.

I was forced to be on a strict diet for the last 3 weeks in preparation for this past weeks poking and prodding in order to rule out any underlying recurrent cancer. Not being able to eat seafood, nuts, pasta, bread, or  dairy products was a challenge. Particularly when my to go snack is a handful of nuts. Plus, having teenagers around who are constantly foraging and gravitate top these same food groups did not make it any easier. I must admit it was hard and had to sneak in a couple of bites here and there of bread. Mom making fresh flour tortillas for breakfast did not help in the least.

So of course when my tests were done despite having severe nausea and feeling weak, I headed straight to an Italian restaurant to indulge in some lentil soup, and chicken sandwich loaded with mozzarella cheese, only after taking Zofran.

I was so extremely overjoyed to enjoy food once again that although the nausea seemed to have returned after eating, I could not pass the opportunity of visiting one of my favorite clothing stores-TALBOTS- love their red doors! Especially since there is none close to home. Plus,  I was sad I would have to miss yet again another great customer “party.” To my surprise, they were in the midst of hosting a fashion show. Of course this delighted me completely and quickly found a spot to sit. Initially, the nausea, heat and hot flashes from the small radiation doses I had received were extremely distracting. But as my husband always says “where there is a ‘Bebe’ (one of my many nicknames) there is a way.”  Surely I was not going to miss this fashion show and special prices event which I had stumbled into fortuitously just because I had some side effects to the treatment and was stiffer than usual.  So for a while I simply sat there quietly enjoying the ambience wishing I could feel better so I would not be sick in the middle of the floor. I stood once again and made my way to the table of delectable goodies to grab some cold water to take more pills when one of the attendants asked me how I was liking show. Trying to be polite and making small conversation so I could return to my seat, I asked how the models were chosen? she then proceeded to ask me if I would be interested in modeling for them at their next event.

Seems like suddenly I was experiencing another ‘Kamehameha’ moment all over. When we were in Hawaii over spring break while doing our usual touring, I began to experience severe discomfort which escalated to more intense pain in my back as we were walking. but suddenly upon reaching the site where King Kamehameha statue is located in Honolulu  because it is the headquarters for the T.V. show Hawaii- five- o, I became so enthralled that my pain and all discomfort dissipated completely- forever known in my family as the ‘Kamehameha effect.

Image result for king kamehameha statue in honoluluT

Having regained some energy, when the national sales manager Pam approached me about what I liked about their products and fall line, I seized the opportunity to discuss possible partnership to do Parkinson’s awareness just like they do breast cancer awareness. After discussing my role in advocacy, my platform on women’s issues in PD and explaining my love for fashion and need for women with PD to feel empowered over their disease, she was completely on board. although, they could not endorse PD as they do breast cancer awareness, she was willing to take back to headquarters and in meantime offered to partner in the winter for a charitable event with their red winter wardrobe line which could involve several stores in the Houston area. Although, nothing is set in stone as of yet, the possibility of this is taking place is terribly exciting, more importantly the seed was planted. Like all fruit trees  even though they must be watered and cared for, a fertile soil is essential for it to take root and grow. Lets hope this new idea takes and leads to greater awareness in women (gender) issues within the Parkinson’s community.

Furthermore, I was ecstatic about the possibility that I mentioned it to a good friend of mine who happens to be a drug rep for Azilect and she took was excited by this that she said she would talk to her superiors.

After spending a week in my old stomping ground (Houston Medical Center ) and seeing patient after patient with PD many of whom were young women- the time to take action is now and what better way to bring women of diverse backgrounds together and inform on PD then through a fashion show. After all, as one of the world’s best fashion designers who happens to be a Hispanic woman like myself  – Carolina Herrera, once quipped : “the impossible does not truly exist for (a PD) woman only time to achieve it.”

Together we are strong

Together we can #end PD

copyright-2016

all rights reserved – Maria De Leon MD

Finding Inspiration All Around Us: by Maria De Leon

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With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” Eleanor Roosevelt  

 We are all planned, planted and pruned for a purpose by God.

The last month, as all of you who have been following my blogs have discovered,  I had a small set back which has led to some decompensation due to having PD as a chronic underlying illness. This is not entirely uncommon especially for those of us who are as complex as I am. But, as  bad as I have felt most of you know that I am not one to give up or just sit around ….although I must admit I have been sleeping a lot more than usual. Nevertheless, I am determined to get back to my base line and able to continue traveling and speaking so besides having a ton of doctors appointments which have required someone else to drive me in one or two occasions, I have resumed water therapy.

We have a new instructor who is simply wonderful and understands well the complexity of the body especially for those of us who have neurological illnesses like Parkinson’s disease and incorporates techniques of tai-chi, yoga, and cardio all in water settings. while doing these exercises I have discovered two things. one, that I am weaker than I thought ant two that even though I feel great while doing these exercises afterwards I feel completely wasted due to severe nausea and vertigo it triggers. However, within this same setting I have encountered several of my patients who I was not only delighted to see but also glad to see they were engaging in therapy.

One particular patient has completely inspired me to continue despite the ill effects it has produced. because I know this too shall pass as I always say but recently I heard someone say that it would pass like a kidney stone. That is exactly how I feel, slow and at times down right excruciating. Yet, my discomfort no matter how painful is nothing comparable to what some of you have endured and what some of my patients have suffered. particularly, this courageous lady who has a most severe neurological disease which has now left her nearly paraplegic with severe upper extremity tremors. But having this illness has not stopped her one bit. You will see her around town frequently in her motorized wheelchair doing for herself and others. Similarly, she is there in the pool without fail trying her best to follow the instructor. Last session she nearly drowned a couple of times. somehow I doubt that this minor things in her mind will keep her from coming back. Knowing that she has endured  for a lot longer than I have and continuous to fight daily has given me the courage to persevere and deeply admire her inner fortitude. so, when Wednesday comes I will take some Zofran prior to my exercise therapy and I will be there working at getting myself well once again and encouraging her to continue while keeping a closer eye on her so no more incidents of near drowning occur like having life guards near by and having her wear a life vest.

So you see, all you have to do is look around and you are apt to find some inspiration in your life . No matter how bad we think we might be or have it there is always a reason to go on fighting. it may take a bit longer but I know I will be among you chatting and visiting once more very soon; because in the end we are always worth MORE than we feel and there are no strongholds greater than God.

Image By Andre Kohn

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all rights reserved – Maria De Leon MD

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 )

In Search of the Right Pair of Shoes: By Maria De Leon

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Those of you who have been following my blogs for a while and have read my “Parkinson’s Diva,” book will know how much I love a good pair of shoes. Shoes are an extension of ourselves; they speak of our style and who we are without having to utter a single word. plus just as a well tailored outfit makes a woman so do a beautiful well fitted pair of shoes can make a woman feel special, elegant, and capable of conquering the world even if she does not much wealth.  thus, I am always in search of the right pair of shoes that will empower me for whatever situation I am facing at the moment that will complement my attitude style and of course my ever present red lipstick.

Shoes have always been a passion of mine with so many styles and colors to choose from I could go crazy. However, when I began experiencing lower limb dystonia and the pain became more intractable, the first thing I did was rid my closet of all my favorite shoes which I believed were contributing to my pain. I was forced to wear orthopedic shoes which made me feel so self conscious and worst these did not help alleviate my pain.  I missed wearing my stylish shoes and especially my heels which I was accustomed to wearing since I was a teenager. Then came the disequilibrium followed by frequent falling which led to even more trouble after I herniated a lumbar disc. there was no way I could wear my 3 inch stiletto heels any longer. But I was determine that Parkinson’s was not going to dictate how I dressed or what I wore on my feet which made me feel uniquely feminine just the same. So I started my long search for ‘cute,’  comfortable yet ‘stylish’ shoes. Although, over the years I have acquired a new collection of  attractive shoes which have also provided me with the support I needed, I always felt that the range of styles had been dramatically decreased just because I had certain limitations. this meant sacrificing some of the color I love as well as variety of style.

Now, as I have begun to expand my horizons once more I felt I needed something more akin to my style. so for weeks I have been in search of the perfect pair of shoes which could accompany me in all my travels as I lecture around the country. It is always hard to find something elegant yet with a simplistic attractiveness that would give me the confidence required to do my job while maintaining my equilibrium and not causing pain.

After much probing through various sites, I hit the jack pot! I was simply ecstatic. I had finally found beautiful, colorful comfortable shoes that were not too high less than 2 inches most in wedges, kitten keels, sling backs, peep toe, and flats. I was in heaven. only problem is that they are pricy and no longer having a doctor’s salary these are beyond my budget. http://www.beautiFeel.com Even the name of the company was perfect and seemed to suit me. However, I quickly formulated a plan, with the assistance of my fashionista friend in crime who is equally gaga for beautiful shoes. I would invest in THE ONE Perfect pair that would accompany in all my travails. Meanwhile,  I am dreaming of a wedge, sling back peep toe shoe with black and white stripes similar to Kate Spade designer shoes with a small red flower on top ..

A Parkinson’s diva can dream as it is the shoes that allow a woman to conquer the world.. and some day I will again despite this Parkinson’s disease!

Meantime I have redecorated my guest bathroom with paintings of stiletto heels and powerful messages that inspire me to keep going in this race.

copyright-2016

all rights reserved – Maria De Leon MD

Queen for a day! By Maria De Leon

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The other day mom and I went out for a stroll and decided to stop and get something to eat at one of the local restaurants for brunch. As we walked in to a packed restaurant, I noticed everyone was wearing a tiara. One lovely lady stood out as more royally than the rest, she had a larger crown and had a purple robe on- she Must be the Queen I said to myself under my breath. as we were being escorted to the only table available in the middle of the room full of tiara wearing women I suddenly felt naked and out of place without mine. I leaned over and whispered to mom, “if I had known it was wear your crown day, I would have brought mine. ”  But then I remembered that a Diva  does not need a tiara to feel special, she is unique and special all in her own way. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to see a room full of women who enjoyed life as much as I did and wanted to know what this event was all about? Any club where you get to go out in public and wear a tiara is just my  kind of club as long as it empowers women.

Mom and I had a great time wearing our own invisible crowns sitting among all the other divas who were sipping mimosas and laughing out-loud just as we were. Of course as soon as I got home I had to find out who these women were. I discovered to my great astonishment that we had lots in common, how I had never heard of the Pulpwood Queen Book Club I could not believe.

Turns out this was a nation wide phenomena of a women’s book club having their girlfriends weekend in my own home town which only made sense since the group was founded not far from here in 2000 by Kathy Patrick who now runs “Beauty & the Book”- to depict that reading is always in style. so like me, they too believe that knowledge is not only powerful but sexy and attractive and a way for women to conquer anything they put their minds to it even PD as long as its done with  distinction and style.

What I love about this group especially its founder is their willingness to hear the voice of women and help them share their message across the country while getting a nice coiffeur. You simply can’t beat that.

I then thought that all you beautiful Parkinson’s Divas out there and I should start acting more like Queens even if for a day! Not in the nasty kind of way, demanding and having everyone do everything for you while you spend all day at spa getting massages, along with manicures & pedicures. Although, this may be a very nice treat once in a while to help relieve some of the stress of living with PD or caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease. Rather learn to walk with class and confidence as a true diva/queen should to show PD who is really in control.

Queens are always

  • polite and kind towards others. Sometimes hard to do especially when we are in pain. take a deep breath and count to 10.
  • they enjoy and feel great pride and self-worth in helping those in need, especially other women with PD.
  • learn to deal with the mundane and not so fun stuff of our disease with pizzazz.
  • think like a queen – only positive thoughts- we are after all the sum of our thoughts. you have been through a lot in your life and you are still standing, so a little PD will not topple you over.
  • practice your smile- makes you more beautiful and exercises those facial muscles as well.
  • always look dashing- ready for any occasion- don’t forget your favorite lipstick or scarf, etc.
  • finally remember that what ever set backs you may have it is only a stepping stone for greater and stronger victories.

Finally, remember it is the Queen who protects the king (and his house) in the game of chess as in real life!!

In the meantime, working on spreading the word on women’s issues in PD through a women’s book club.

 

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

 

Getting ready for the fall- the PD diva way: by Maria De Leon

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Summer is almost over but another one is just around the corner.” unknown

Labor Day Weekend always marks the end of the summer for me as for most as kids return to their studies. Although, officially we still have a couple of weeks left to enjoy the extended daylight, the carefree days of summer seem to abruptly come to an end once this holiday arrives.  Although, I secretly anticipate the return of summer, I have learned to embrace each season for their own beauty. As I begin pulling out all the decorations for the fall, I feel an excitement mounting once more for new opportunity to display the wonderful array of colors that fall has to offer from its deepest red to its darkest yellows. I realize that just as in life we must embrace every opportunity as it comes – just as a year unfolds so do our lives. We have seasons of rest, pruning, and times of great productivity. But within each season of our life there is beauty to behold; no period is less important or beautiful than any other.

The arrival of autumn is more satisfying to me with each passing year as it mimics my  life with PD. Autumn like Parkinson’s has the ability to draw from a wide spectrum of brilliant colors painting the panorama with an impressive display of colors which summer will never see. As I near the end of summer in my own life, living with PD I am discovering a new range of talents never once displayed along with a burst of creativity I never knew I possessed until it was ready to be harvested.

Despite the fact that it takes me longer and requires more effort on my part, at least a lot more dopamine plus a few chocolates here and there, just to be able to take things out from storage and begin preparing the home for its seasonal-fall make over, I would not change a thing. there’s nothing like the aroma of cinnamon pumpkin, sweet candy apple, and candy corn intermingled to liven my spirit…crisp apple soaps to awaken the senses of even the sleepiest of us all. I absolutely love the lingering aroma of fresh citrus fruits on my hands all day especially since I constantly wash my hands.

This is the season, I particularly look forward to visiting my favorite store – Bath & Body works! I enjoy walking into the store to find new novelties and even though my smell is not what it used to be the combination of aromas always stimulates my olfactory nerves so that I feel almost normal.

Its no wonder that my daughter’s friends as well as my family love visiting my home..as one of my daughter’s friends put it so clearly..” I just love the smell of your house especially your soaps!”

This comment of course swelled up my chest with a great sense of pride since as you know we all have good days and bad days and sometimes domestic diva goes on vacation for a day or three! Nice to know that my home is still inviting despite my shortcomings. The candles and soaps provide wonderful soothing aroma therapy to help relax anyone but especially us Parkinson’s patients and relieve anxiety due to stress.

The best thing of the season, however, is the glee in my daughters eyes when I get done with all the decorating..a lot of which came from my favorite store in the form of unique little Halloween houses, Pumpkin soaps, and owl night lights.

Plus, you can choose from a wide range of seasonal easy to carry hand sanitizers which aside from smelling terrific are fun, a good conversation piece, great little gifts, and a must have for any woman especially for those of us who are already predisposed to other illnesses and experience worsening of our PD symptoms with any cold or flu. Prevention is still the key to a healthier living as the season gets rolling and flu season draws near. But with one stop shop you can relax, distress, improve your senses and prevent spreading of viruses! Wow, you are now on your way to embracing the fall season the PD Diva way!