Perils of Fast & Furious – Life with PD: by Maria De Leon

In life some people trip and some fall but some take that trip and make a beautiful dance out of it.Sometimes, I feel like everything is just going too fast with my daughter nearly finishing high school and my only nephew applying for master’s program while my oldest niece heads off to college. I remember holding all these babies in my hands thinking I could hold them forever in my arms. Now, although I am happy and proud, I just want time to stop and enjoy all of it. Why can’t time have Parkinson’s? Wish it would crawl like molasses as my body often seems to do when I want so much to move faster. Wish time would have a bit of memory loss, as  I often do after taking my amantadine, when it comes to the bad days and freezes during the moments of  sheer joy like when I listen to my daughter play the piano and marvel at her talent as she plays one of my favorite melodies-Nocturne. But, alas as much as I would like time to develop PD it would have none of it. However, it has become my friend showing me the beauty around even as my disease progresses and seasons change – there is always something new to behold,  and learn from.

So has been my life this last month,  I thought that once my practiced closed I would feel a void in my life. But, rather I have discovered new activities, skills, talents, and friends I never imagined that I would have all thanks to living with PD.

In my role as ambassador of PF and activist for all people with Parkinson’s, I got the opportunity to have several interviews nationally to raise awareness in the Hispanic community as we celebrate 200 year anniversary of the “Shaking palsy” publication.

No more fast paced times have I had than during these days of interviewing sitting by my phone starting way too early for me and my meds to kick in- fortunately I did not have to go further than my bedroom. one talk after another and another- feeling my words begin to slur as my mouth became thick and dry and hypophonic (low voice) as the effect of  the medication wore off quicker than usual due to the high mental activity. The days went by in a blur compounded by other responsibilities and activities, I as a mother have. Two of my favorite stories which will live in my memory bank forever that occurred during this crazy period are as follow.. which will forever cause a big smile.

My daughter was to sing in the choir at church, I was spent from all the awareness activities and radio show talks that I could barely move and my neck was in a state of complete spasm from talking on the phone for hours. The cervical dystonia invariably triggers a wave of migraines which usually I can abort but not this week when I needed most because the insurance had refused to cover my Maxalt which I have taken for years and the medicine I was given to replace only caused my head to hurt more. There I was with severe migraine throwing up and stiff as a board trying to get dress in a hurry. No can do my body protested. But, I must get ready and attend my daughter’s performance I insisted despite by husbands better judgment, of course I should have listened because by the time we arrived we only saw her leaving the stage.

The second scenario-came about in the middle of the week in the midst of a hectic schedule which include teaching. A friend associated with a group of women I teach left me a voice mail saying there would be a get together and would love for me to attend the following day at noon. No more details or at least I did not hear. The following day  after completing all my morning activities, I realized it was almost noon. I did not want to let my friend down since she insisted I come. But, having been on the computer and phone since 6:30 in the am I was in no way ready to socialize. The dilemma was go all grungy an hope to get there on time or make effort to look presentable knowing full well I would be late. Realizing lunch was being held at a place usually considered a bit more upscale I opted for the latter – thinking this was an informal get together. I arrived late of course and entered a room full of  well- dressed women seated at tables with fine china and cutlery. I nearly retreated but the host caught a glimpse of me and said: ” I am so glad you made it. let me show you to your seat which had my name inscribed on a card.” this was an etiquette luncheon! First faux pas – do not show up late! but, thank God at least I was presentable! after a very enjoyable lunch and fellowship which extended way longer than I hoped for (and could not leave early since I was already late too begin with) I had to sit getting stiffer and more antsy since I had another meeting to attend and the time for this to start was beginning to draw near.   I am still not sure as far as etiquette if would have been better to not look good but be on time or arrive late looking fabulous!  This week back to my slow crawl pace – till next adventure. In the meantime will try to catch up on some reading curled in my favorite diva couch!

Happy Week to everyone!

Art By Ross Webb

Chaotic House in the Prairie: By Maria De Leon

There is no great loss without some small gain.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

Ok so it’s not exactly the prairie but I do like to think of it in the middle of nowhere. I am after all surround d by large pine trees and the wild fauna seems to enjoy the flora around my house attracting many a doe to give birth on my front lawn. Although, I have grown to love my community and appreciate its charms can’t take the city of this city girl. What then does an out of work night owl who has chronic insomnia thanks to PD do for entertainment in the middle of the night? Well there is always Walmart… but not really my thing so besides reading, watching a zillion movies, and preparing for my new women’s class, or working on two books (which I am attempting to finish and publish this year),there is something more practical. One exercise by dancing which unfortunately only contributes to the insomnia not recommended. But, as many of you who live with PD and other chronic diseases will attest that mornings are just extremely disorganized, slow, and rough for all in the family. You wake up stiff and staggering then you take your medications and either don’t work as always because of severe constipation or bad side effects like nausea, migraine, dizziness so you lounge around for a few minutes but before you know it it’s noon and your husband is home starving and the meal you have been planning for three days ….

“I guess you are not cooking! Should I just put away that chicken and make dinner tonight?

I sigh, as he walks away to make himself a sandwich.

Finally, around 3:30 p.m., I begin to feel like myself having wasted half the day away I drag myself to shower and wash away the “illness” if only it was possible. He returns having gone walking around the stadium which I could not join today due to being dizzy and nauseous, and with my daughter; but instead of letting me cook dinner he jumps in and takes over so I begrudgingly oblige.  (He will be back to work in a couple of days and I will have no recourse but to manage best I can).

Soon it will be time for him to retire to the bedroom and I will have complete run of the house.

Fortunately, this is the time I can spend with my daughter who happens to be a teenager and is also a night owl. I help with homework, Spanish particularly, and we laugh because my brain is still slow and gets tripped easily at times then as always a customary snack before bedtime.

Its midnight now, finally house quiet and I can think clearly.  I am full of energy and feeling great. I decide to make the mole I have been trying to prepare for the last 3 days so when I don’t feel well tomorrow food will actually be ready and on time for my husband to eat at noon. But, I am so weak, shaky and dystonic I am having trouble opening the jar of mole. I laugh out loud at the new label on the lid which reads “new and improved easier to open lid” but nothing has really changed looks exactly the same it has looked for half a century (and I chuckle a my fellow countrymen then I get a bit sad when I think what if I can buy this product anymore with new changes in government?) I don’t want to think about it anymore tonight…

I am making one of my favorite dishes. If only I could find a way to open the darn jar. As I search every cabinet and beat and pound on the jar I hoping it won’t shatter since made of glass, I feel like the cat in the cartoon where he is left alone with cabinets full of tuna cans but no can opener!

Should I call mom at this hour and ask for advice? She too is a night owl. I do. Of course she is awake. We talk for a while then she asks what I am up to and laughs wholeheartedly at my situation but gives me a solution. At last I can finish preparing my mole! I am tempted to eat some when done an hour 1/2 later, but I restrain myself. I need to go to bed it’s close to 2 a.m. Maybe a glass of wine will do the trick while I wait for food to cool enough to refrigerate. Surprise, surprise, I can’t open wine bottle either.

C’est la vie!  Although, I am not really sleepy I drag myself to bed “for tomorrow is another day” or maybe later today and wait for sleep to come and resume the chaos which is my life with PD.

 

 

 

Women’s Health & Sexuality: By Maria De Leon

“It’s not the size of the boat but the motion in the ocean…”

(Image by Ross Webb)

There I was, in the middle of a crowed classroom, addressing students and faculty alike about human sexuality  and talking about “orgasms” and “premature ejaculation,” with not as much as a wave of discomfort when it suddenly dawn on me – I had somehow morphed into Dr. Ruth (Westheimer)- iconic sexologist of the 80’s. I chuckled inside a bit as I continued lecturing. If someone one had told me that a shy, introverted young girl with “rose-colored” eye balls  and little world experience would become this carefree, self-confident, mature woman expounding on the issues of sexuality, I would have died laughing in utter disbelief.

Nevertheless, with age along with living with a chronic illness has given me a new found freedom one and  voice to help women of all ages deal with chronic illnesses particularly those with chronic neurological diseases such as PD. Having treated many women over the years as well as living with PD myself, over the last ten years, has made me realize the need for awareness and much needed dialogue in this vital aspect of  every woman’s life. because sadly until only a few decades ago, there was a misconception regarding women’s sexuality which  was promoted by men, I am sure ( some sort of ploy to keep women under control),  that women have a decrease libido compared to men. This of course is entirely false, although as in men there are some women who have greater sex drive than others.

Yet, despite the fact that when chronic illness strikes sex and intimacy are unwittingly place in the back burner for many of us, sexual expression and sexuality is still at the top of our lists. this is one of the factors we deem important when we think of quality of life. However,  it seems to me that for centuries women have gotten the short end of the deal in this department thus going on for years suffering both physically and emotionally from lack of  appropriate care.

Here are some tips to become a SEX Goddess again ( at least in our own minds!)Rita Hayworth 1941:

First, it is important to recognize that both men and women suffer from sexual problems when it comes to chronic disease like Parkinson’s. Although, some of the issues are inherently different we share many things in common such as fatigue, depression, hormonal changes, lack of energy, medication side effects, stress and anxiety all of which can put a kibosh to our libido. Therefore, it is imperative that you feel free to discuss these issues with your physician as soon as they arise and not make it a “door -effect” as I like to call it… I.E. “oh by the way doctor, I have this problem when I have intercourse,” as you are walking out the door of the examining room. of course we must also remember that like the infamous “birds and the bees” sexual prowess’s can be wide and varied depending on partner, experience (history of trauma, or abuse), culture, religion, etc.

For us women the reasons for sexual dysfunction- this refers to

  • lack or loss of sexual desire
  • anxiety during intercourse- muscle stiffness, loss of bladder control
  • pain during intercourse- recurrent urinary infections
  • dryness- this is one of the most common problems from autonomic dysfunction (decrease blood flow) ; hormonal changes
  • trouble achieving orgasm
  • vaginismus- muscle contract involuntarily preventing penetration

How to prevent Parkinson’s from hijacking your libido and sexual desire:

Having sexual problems may feel like an insurmountable task to overcome thus may be tempted to throw in the towel and give up and give into disease.  however, with lots of love, patience, and persistence you and your partner may begin to enjoy a healthy sexual interaction that does not always mean sexual intercourse in order to be satisfying and fulfilling. Sometimes SEX ( BIG and BOLD) is just s e x (barely present) yet equally rewarding.

Since vaginal dryness is a HUGE issue- try lubricants ( water based best) don’t be afraid to stop and use more if needed. Hormonal replacement topical or oral can also go a long way for this as well as help with some of the loss of libido issues.

Of course fatigue and poor energy can be a disastrous problem when trying to be at maximal arousal- thus try different times of the day or night when you are most awake and energetic- I guarantee you will sleep better and burn off a few calories in the process.

Incontinence- many of us with PD especially as disease advances may find ourselves dealing with this pesky and extremely embarrassing problem. Don’t hide or avoid intimacy altogether, instead talk to your partner and your doctor. Padding the bed with some towels or disposable urine pads like the ones used in hospital, which can be purchased at a medical supply store, can help ease the discomfort and allow you to relax.

Don’t neglect your relationship, find other ways to be intimate. I love when my husband massages my back especially since it is so stiff that I almost appreciate that as much or more depending on my mood than intercourse. spend time cuddling, or touching each other, bathing together. a single touch (hug) of 7-8 seconds can release as much natural neurotransmitters ( serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin) to make you happy.

Above all make time for one another aside from “caregiver/partner” and “patient.” This of course a lot of communication, which has to happen daily.

When all else fails or in conjunction to above  ( this will give best outcome) along with medications to help treat specific problems like infections, dryness, anxiety, incontinence, etc.; there are alternative treatments such as behavioral therapy for individuals and couples, sex therapy, acupuncture, yoga and meditation to name a few.

So go ahead embrace your sexuality and you like me may want to say

“I want it all!

I believe in love, lust, SEX, and romance

I don’t want everything to add up in perfectly neat equation

I want mess and chaos

I want someone to go crazy out of his mind for me

I want to feel passion, heat and madness.

I want it ALL!” (Mirror has two faces)