Golf had been in my life for 60+ years. I have experienced wonderfully magical moments on great courses, playing alongside editor buddies at Cypress Point, Bandon Dunes and Pinehurst, to name but three.

I’ve always been more a ball “striker” than “player.” Hitting a pure shot in the exact middle of the club has mattered more to me than winning a hole. (Sorry, playing partners, for lost bets.)

My handicap was a not-too shabby “7” at age 50. That was on my tough, home-course, Wachesaw Plantation in Murrells Inlet, S.C.

I shelved golf in 2014, the year my Parkinson’s was diagnosed. That monster was, and is, pounding my autonomic nervous system, especially equilibrium and balance functions.

I was unable to swing without falling down for three years. Physical therapy and intensive exercise brought my game back in 2018, albeit with a swing modified for Parkinson’s. (Technically, maximum possible trunk rotation with minimal arm turn.)

 Encore June 8, 2019.

My longtime, travel group was playing the Senator course at the Robert Trent Jones Trail course in Prattville, Alabama.

I joined them from my Macon home for the day, more tag-along observer than player. I did, however, swing without falling down.


This story is about a group of guys connected by golf who became a tribe of close—and gently needling–friends. You couldn’t expect more, or less, from a bunch of top newspaper editors — most of them retired rather than daily practitioners of their journalism craft that Saturday in Prattvile.

The Fourth Estate Golf Society (FEGS) came to be in the mid-to late 1980s at a convention hotel bar in Washington, D.C., legend has it.


The late David Burgin turned to his buddy Will Jarrett and said something choice like this: “I am bored as shit by this fucked up meeting. Let’s go play golf.”

They did, then decided to form a group of golfing newspaper editors who would gather each year in late Spring or early Summer at first-rate golf resorts.

For a figurative five minutes, Dave and Will conjured their group’s name as the First Amendment Golf Society. The acronym FAGS didn’t quite work for the two machismo guys.

Thus, FEGS was born.

I was invited to join in the late 1980s when I was editor of The Sun Newsin Myrtle Beach.

At its peak, I remember as many as 20-24 players making the five days of golf at superb courses: Hilton Head, Pebble Beach, Kiawah, Cherry Hills, Whistling Straits, to name but a few.

Our overt bond was a game. The subtler tie was emotional. FEGS guys could and do call on one another for all manner of support, professional and personal.

The rollcall of members includes top shelf, prize-winnings editors and related newspaper executives, such as the late Charles Cooper (our detail guy and historian), Peter Bhatia, Larry Tarleton, Don Nauss, Jim Box, Walter Mears, Frank Denton, Jim Baltzelle, Mike Waller, Jeff Cohen, Craig Ammerman, John Matthews, George Blake, Joe Urschel, Bob Duffy, Darrell Christian, Mark Mulholland, Bil Horton, Reid Miller, Jack Osteen, Byron Yake, Steve Wagenlander.

FEGS this year numbered eight players. Morbidity and mortality have taken their toll.

Those eight, and those who couldn’t join this time, are my golf tribe.














“Counterpunch” Receives News Attention

“Counterpunch” and MOPD received favorable newspaper attention this week.

Doug Clifton, retired executive editor of the Miami Herald,wrote about Parkinson’s in the South Florida (Fort Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel (below).

Clifton’s op-ed carries extra authority beyond his journalism credentials. He served as a combat officer in Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange. He was diagnosed with PD in 2013.




Cutting Through PD Pap

Meet Kirk Hall, my great Denver friend and  maker of “Good Trouble” on behalf of fellow Parkinson’s fighters.

Kirk is a bear of a man. That, and his rumbling voice, command attention.  He’s usually the smartest guy in the room, and people know it. I do.

Kirk was and is a marketer. His product now is a cause: better lives for fellow Parkinson’ sufferers. He blogs and writes books about PD, his best known being “Window of Opportunity.”

We met electronically in 2015. Each of us was urging the Parkinson’s Foundation to make palliative care that year’s topic of concern. PF did.

Kirk writes about the end of our journeys with Parkinson’s. He cuts through the feel-good pap about “something else will kill you first, not PD.”

Read his words More time 1 and More Time 2.

I, for, one will never forget them.


it: http://www.shakypawsgrampa.com/index.php/new-blog/entry/more-time-1and http://www.shakypawsgrampa.com/index.php/new-blog/entry/more-time-ii




I am a privileged Parkinson’s person.

Resources permit to have an able health care team, headed by a superb Parkinson’s specialist (MDS). On it are my family doc, my urologist, GI specialist, PT, and psychotherapist. They keep me upright, moving and relatively pain free.

I am blessed.

Only 10 percent of Parkies ever see an MDS. Another forty percent are treated by a neurologist. The remaining 60 percent see a family doctor or receive no treatment for this monstrous condition. They are denied access to the latest, improved medications.

How much more broken can Parkinson’s treatment become? Just wait for the projected doubling of PD cases in the coming two decades as the supply of MDS specialist shrinks.

Disaster is us

Buckle up, suit up and demand proper treatment. Make some “good trouble” for yourself and fellow Parkinson’s patients.

Do it. Now.



Escaping Bladder Hell

I thank two quite different urologists for my escape from Bladder Hell. That awful state is bipolar: urine dribbling at the benign end and pee flooding the shoes at the catastrophic end.

David Paulson is my 80ish, ATO fraternity brother at Duke and retired chief of Urology at the Duke Medical Center. Brian Geary is a 40ish University of Alabama-Birmingham Med grad who lives in Macon, GA, my home.

Paulson is formal and elegant, always has been. Plays golf and tennis at his retirement home in the Palm Beach area.

Geary calls himself a Bladderologist, favors a scruffy beard and wears baggy, blue scrubs  for office visits.

He knows of Paulson; Paulson knows him not. No surprise.

Geary uses a Sharpie to draw cartoon-like pictures of urinary anatomy and function. We giggle a lot together at office visits. He’s very glib and extremely funny.

Paulson expertly guided me to the University of Florida Shands Center for expert PD treatment.

Geary is retraining my bladder, with my small assistance, to quit dribbling, then flooding urine. I have reduced my urinations 50% in six weeks. No catastrophes during this period. Minimal dribbles.

Bladder problems are common in Parkinson’s cases and difficult to treat, say both Paulson and Geary.

Geary, compassionate and wise beyond his years, believes the medical community should care as much or more about extending patients’ quality of life as they do extending biological life. I’m with him on that.

Excerpts from a very interesting email exchange I had with Brian follow, quoting his words.

“I hope you will use your influence in the Parkinson’s community to give them some hope that their ‘pee problems’ are not ‘always’ because of the Parkinson’s. But that’s what happens when the neurologist are the first docs to ask (or actually listen) about bowel/ bladder issues.

“It’s been my experience in caring for these patients that bladder/bowel issues play a major role in the conscious and subconscious self-esteem and thus overall quality of life.

“Remember medicine –as a collective whole– has spent the last 50-plus years prolonging life without ever stopping to focus on the quality of the years added.

“One day I hope there will be a sub specialty in bladderology, so I won’t sound as crazy when I tell my patients that I’m a bladderologist.

“Don’t forget to let me know when you sit down with Doctor Oz to discuss your book. Remember to ask him why he likes to wear scrubs two sizes too small for me.”

Shall do, Brian. Want a press agent? I’m it, Amigo.




MOPD Progress Report

My and my wife’s “Counterpunch” book was published in January by Book Baby. The reviews are quite strong and sales are increasing by the week. I share the letter to donors to my Me Over Parkinson’s Foundation. It contains a synopsis of our wok in Tampa, Macon and soon Detroit.

XX February 2019

Dear xxxxx

The work of the Me Over PD (MOPD) Foundation is gaining significant momentum and positive national attention.

My and my wife Struby’s book, “Counterpunch: Duking It Out With Parkinson’s,” was published in January to positive reviews. Most notably, acclaimed Parkinson’s expert Dr. Michael Okun calls “Counterpunch” an “astonishing achievement.”

The Mercer Medical School is interested in placing the book in the offices of 360 frontline physicians in their Georgia network, a potentially huge outreach to thousands of sufferers. All proceeds from book sales go to our foundation for its work.

Our groundbreaking research in Tampa (University of South Florida) to create an easily accessible, curated database of local support services for Parkinson’s sufferers is in final field testing. Patient advocates in other regions have asked to use our finished model to bolster their work.

In Macon, GA, our home, MOPD has trained more than 50 patients and care partners in the complexities of PD and action steps to “Live Well With Parkinson’s.”

Our pioneering, ground-level work is especially important with the projected flood of new PD cases – just as the number of top-shelf PD experts is declining precipitously. PD experts are warning this mismatch of demand and supply a “Perfect Storm” and a “Pandemic” in the making.

In Middle Georgia, comprising more than 20 counties, there is no practicing, top-level  PD expert (Mobility Disease Specialist). The story is similar in other states.

My foundation needs your help to grow and help many more PD sufferers. We plan to be operational in a third area, Detroit, by mid-year.

Your support has been essential in our success, which creates the need for additional resources to bring our work to full flower.

My “ask” is a $xxx tax-deductible contribution to our 501(c)3 foundation, whose address is below. I will call you to explain our unmatched, in-the-trenches work with Parkinson’s people.

I am deeply grateful for your friendship and support.

My best wishes always,


Me Over PD Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization Continue reading “MOPD Progress Report”


Parkinson’s “Pandemic” Part 2

A Florida Parkinson’s expert relates how five members of her family or close professional circle have been touched directly with a PD diagnosis.

An Alabama health system contacts me for advice on dramatically increasing their Parkinson’s patient-care efforts. The reason? A powerful member of their leadership structure just received his PD diagnosis.

Those examples encapsulate elements that a coming Parkinson’s “Pandemic” might contain. (That head-snapping word came from an expert PD panel early this year.)

Now juxtapose “Pandemic” with this fact: Only 50 neurologists are training in the U.S. to become top-shelf Parkinson’s specialists (Mobility Disease Specialist or MDS for short).

Baby-boomer doctors of all specialties are aging out, retiring from practice.

The Mobility Disease Specialist crisis (my term) looks like this now: Large geographic areas are without any practicing MDS. An example is the almost two dozen counties in Macon and Central Georgia, where I live.

Parkies like me must travel two to five hours to receive treatment from an MDS in Atlanta, Augusta (GA), Jacksonville (FL) or Gainesville (FL).

Metro areas have seen a sharp reduction in practitioners who are expert in PD and are treating PWP, such as San Antonio, which has gone from 20 to 3.

There are numerous disincentives to becoming an MDS.

One is money.

Insurers led by Medicare are not providing adequate reimbursement support, such as payment for “long” patient visits necessary for proper PD care. Long here means more than 10 minutes.

Pharma is withdrawing its already inadequate support for, and from, development of PD medications.

How do we fill the void so that PWP might “live well” with their condition?

It seems logical that non-MDS neurologists, geriatric specialists and generalists will be forced into the gap and must receive much more training in this diabolical, unique to the individual condition. Same goes for related, non-MD professionals, such as PAs and nurses.

Healthcare consultant Kim Blasingame wrote in September that neurology professionals have sounded the supply-demand warning since 2013.

She described the “perfect storm” this way: “The neurology workforce supply is constrained from many sides. Factors including government policy, advances in neurological care, demographic changes, failure to innovate, and changing clinician work/life balance expectations are limiting growth in the supply of neurology patient care. But it is the convergence with another force – demand expansion – that is creating the perfect storm.”


It also follows that patient education and self-help efforts must grow, enormously. We are stronger together, as our energized Parkie Tribe in Macon (GA) is demonstrating, led by my Me-Over-PD Foundation.

I explore those patient-led, care initiatives in my and my wife’s just-published book “Counterpunch: Duking It Out With Parkinson’s.” It is available in paperback and eBook.

There is reason for Hope, our life blood. The journey will be demanding, as always with the unwelcome Parkinson’ tenant in our brains.


Titanic Consequences of a Parkinson’s Pandemic

The big buzz in Parkinson’s Land is the expert panel of neuros warning of a coming Pandemicof Parkinson’s cases. Their projection of PD incidence doubling by 2040 is notnews.

Their hyperbolic language is new. “Pay attention higher powers in healthcare and government,” would seem the panel’s urgent message.

But the panel omitted mention the real catastropheheaded for Parkie patients like me.

There are only 50 neuros in training in the U.S. to become top-shelf experts in Parkinson’s and related disorders. Their title is Mobility Disease Specialist (MDS). (I double-checked that number with the estimable Michael Okun. “Accurate,” he wrote.)

Baby-boomer docs of all persuasions are reaching retirement age. That most definitely includes MDSers.

I live in Macon, heart of Middle Georgia, comprising about two-dozen counties. We have NO practicing MDS neuros. Not one.

The closest centers with MDS neuros are Atlanta, Augusta (GA), Jacksonville (FL) and Gainesville (FL). From Macon, that’s a one-way drive of between two and five hours. Ouch!

Patients need an MDS to prescribe –precisely– medications and to help write a personal healthcare plan.

Experience tells that such a plan comprises three essential components: 1. Informed and empowered patient and care partner. 2. An integrated healthcare team. 3. A local Parkinson’s Center, virtual or bricks-and-mortar, that assists a patient locate resources necessary to fulfill their plan and “Live Well” with their disability.

Those 50 neuros in MDS training translates to roughly one per state.

Ponder that Titanic mismatch.




“Counterpunch” book launched

The book Struby and I have worked on for over two years is out. Its name is “Counterpunch: Duking It Out With Parkinson’s.” (Cute, huh?)
It chronicles our journey with The Beast in my brain and its profound impact on both of us. (I am doing fine, BTW.)
Struby memorably opens the first of her two chapters this way:
“If you had behaved like this when I met you, I never would have married you.”
Dave Lawrence, retired publisher of The Miami Herald has read the book. He floored Struby and me with this message:
“I love your book for many reasons, among them:
“– The honesty of the story you tell so well. There is no pussyfooting. It is straightforward and then some — and loving, too. You make it all so ‘real.’
“– It will be a great practical and genuine “gift” for so many families.
“I am proud to know you both. The book deserves to be read. “
It’s been an emotional 10 days since the print copies of “Counterpunch” landed on our porch.


Our Book Is Out!

Counterpunch: Duking It Out With Parkinson’s by Gil Thelen with C. Struby Thelen

Click the Buy now button to purchase from bookbaby.com
All proceeds from the book go to the Me-Over-PD Foundation.


A Hall of Fame Newspaper editor describes his turbulent journey of discovery with Parkinson’s. Gil Thelen confronts this malady with infinite faces and—using keen reporting and engaging prose—offers inspirational and practical ways to foil the beastly tenant in his brain. Armed with Cornell medical training, a background of health and medical writing, and activism in national and local Parkinson’s communities, Gil tackles his condition head-on. In two chapters, his wife Struby courageously reveals the devastating impact Parkinson’s and its drugs have had on their marriage.

From both Parkie and care partner perspectives, Gil and Struby bare PD stumbling blocks and share workarounds to counterpunch this condition by taking aggressive action to stay upright, moving, productive, and to NOT be a victim. The perfect read for the newly diagnosed, looking for insights into Parkinson’s, as well as anyone looking for guidance, either personally or professionally to help others, in fighting back against this baffling condition. An outstanding collection of recommended resources and suggestions for Parkies to get informed, get organized and get MOVING.

All proceeds from the book go to the Me-Over-PD 501(c)(3) Foundation, dedicated to creating live, local databases of crucial Parkinson’s resources in communities across the United States.