December 12th will be the sixth anniversary of our official, diagnosed, life together, although we were getting to know each other years before that. I feel that our relationship is progressing. I remember when we met among the nerve cells of the substantia nigra. By the time we were officially diagnosed, we had already lost 80 percent of our dopamine-producing cells. If it’s all right with you, I would like to name the surviving dopamine cells to let them know that they are needed and loved and should stick around.
Do you think we should get an anniversary present for each other? Metal or wood is traditional for the sixth anniversary, but I can’t think of anything made of wood or metal that I would want. I have an idea. We could get masquerade costumes. Parkinson’s has already given me a mask to go with the costume, due to decreased facial expression. There are some gifts you have given me that I would like to return; I don’t really need them. Are there gift receipts for these things I got from you? I would like to box up and return muscle rigidity, stiffness in the arms, shoulders and neck, voice changes and unsteady walking. If you’re willing to take those back, I’m sure I could find a few more.
On the other hand, there are some other things you have given me that I love and wouldn’t mind more of:
Give me more flexibility in adjusting to change. There are parts of my life I have no control over. Every day poses unique challenges and I need to be able to quickly shift course.
Remind me, Parkinson’s, to have a positive attitude. Choosing to have a positive attitude impacts my relationships with others and how I take care of myself.
Keep teaching me compassion. You may have changed my way of moving, working and living, but you also taught me to have compassion, empathy and appreciation for those affected by all types of illness.
And, Parkinson’s, let’s keep being open and unashamed about what you give me. This openness has lead to wonderful friendships, and a most supportive community.
You can continue to give me the gift of gratitude. I believe that you have increased my gratitude for the simple things in life that are often taken for granted.
So Parkinson’s, like so many relationships, we have had good times and weathered some bad times. May we continue in our journey together for many years to come.