Uncategorized

Calling All Mammalian Congregators

My wife Struby and I are reading a fascinating book:

 

A General Theory of Love
by Thomas Lewis, MD; Fari Amini, MD; Richard Lannon, MD
Vintage Books (C) 2000

In it we learn the neurophysiological reason that properly structured support groups, such as PD SELF, are so vital for overcoming health challenges. Read on (emphasis added):

 

“…. One study, for instance, found that social isolation tripled the death rate following a heart attack. Another found that going to group psychotherapy doubled the postsurgical lifespan of women with breast cancer. A third noted that leukemia patients with strong social supports had two-year survival rates more than twice that of those who lacked them.

 

“In his fascinating book Love & Survival, Dean Ornish surveyed the medical literature on the relationship between isolation and human mortality. His conclusion: dozens of studies  demonstrate that solitary people have a vastly increased rate of premature death from all causes — they are three to five times likelier to due early that people with ties to a caring spouse, family or community.

 

“With results like these backing the medical efficacy of mammalian congregation, you might think that treatments like group therapy after breast cancer would not be standard. Guess again. Affiliation is not a drug or an operation, and that makes it nearly invisible to Western medicine. Our doctors are not uninformed; on the contrary, most have read these studies and grant them a grudging intellectual acceptance. But they don’t believe in them; they can’t bring themselves to base treatment decisions on a rumored phantom like attachment. They prevailing medical paradigm has no capacity to incorporate the concept that a relationship is a physiologic process, as real and as potent as any pill or surgical procedure.
Palliative Care, Parkinson's Disease, Uncategorized

Meet Laura

whos-afraid-of-palliative-care

Who’s afraid of palliative care? My editor, of course. 

Mention palliative care to a Parkie, and most will recoil in real or imagined terror. The first mental association is to hospice and/or end-of-life care.

Here’s what my editor Laura (a tiny woman who in a flaky voice has vowed to kick Parkinson in the face) said about it:

“The word palliative makes me shudder…

“It sort of spells defeat. To me it says: ‘We have given up hope of curing you, so we just want to make you comfortable before your impending demise.’

“In fewer words: ‘Make yourself comfy and die.’

And she adds: “Yet, if I had a nasty, painful, end in sight, I guess I’d want to be palliated to the max”.

The fact is palliative care is undergoing a dramatic and sweeping overhaul. Rather than end-of-life, the focus is now on creating –and following through on– health care plans. Those start at diagnosis and proceed through a number of steps that include patient self-management, mid-stage plan alterations, family support and, finally, death with dignity.

Kirk Hall’s astute reframing of palliative care is well worth reading. This link takes you to his presentation to the World Parkinson Congress.  

Now more about Laura Crawford, my new blog partner, whose commitment to the PD SELF program is astonishing. Laura has all the graphic skills I do not. She also has a fertile and inventive mind about the presentation of ideas. Her illustrations have graced several of recent Shuffling Editor posts.  

I asked Laura to write about herself and her husband, Dan Crawford, a retired telco senior exec. The Crawfords live in New Port Richey, FL.

Now for Laura on Laura:

editor-in-the-sky

Gil Thelen has called me his editor. Those who know him realize that he is pulling my leg. 

But it opens up an opportunity to ask myself, “who am I?”

Fact and public confession is that I have always been a pushover.

Like in a line by T.S. Eliot, I have asked myself at every step: “Do I dare eat a peach? Do I dare disturb the Universe?”

To the concern of my parents and my teachers, since I learned to read my face was always behind a book (I was not a popular kid).

To keep safe behind the pages, I studied literature.

“I’m now licensed to read,” I marveled when I graduated, and went on to spend two decades in PR and media relations. In 2009 I started a communications agency in Mexico, from where I hail (my business partner was a designer, I wrote content). 

Then puff! Out of life’s box of surprises, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. 

After exclaiming: “Aha! That’s why I fell asleep in my client’s office!,” I thought I had arrived at my life journey’s last stop. 

But it has opened the best part so far. Parkinson’s forced me out of my old constrictions and into a physically and mentally challenging territory that I am just exploring. It’s sights can be terrifying and yet liberating. 

In early 2014 I left the office in my business partner’s hands, and my very wonderful husband, Dan, brought me to Florida to be treated at the UF Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration.

There, Dr. Michael Okun warned me as he prescribed medication (and I’m very loosely paraphrasing this awesome neurologist):

“Watch out, for you might go gambling, stomp out in a sexual rampage or destroy your finances on a shopping spree.”

But I never thought my obsession would zero in on markers and sketch pads. To my surprise, my brain has turned to graphics. Instead of books I now buy art supplies; words were my life, but now I try to explain everything in form and color. 

So here I am, about to zap Gil with my blazing color pencils if he forgets a comma, ‘cause I’m learning to be assertive (and he’ll zap me back, because he is assertivier).

Anyway, I have embraced PD SELF because the program is great not only against Parkinson’s, but –more importantly— I trust it will help me get rid of that fear of living that shrivels our capacity to enjoy whatever life we have ahead.

PD scares me. But I want to kick him in the face and say, at the end, that my trek was good and that, even if I do it in a shaky/twirly gait, I walked it as myself in full.

A final word about the Congress: gathered were several thousand Parkies using canes, walkers, wheel chairs, walking poles, companion dogs, leg braces, to name but a few PD aids.

What those brave people have in common is one thing.

Hope.