April is Parkinson Awareness Month.
This is the story of the strongest person I’ve ever known. My dad.
Back in late 2006, I can clearly remember my dad being on the phone and shaking. We had no idea why. We thought it was nerves or stress from work. After all, he was a policeman in our town.
I asked him what was wrong. He said he was just stressed. No big deal. I was still in high school and had my mind in other places at the time.
My dad finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with “stress tremors.” Essential tremor is a nervous system (neurological) disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking. It can affect almost any part of your body, but the trembling occurs most often in your hands — especially when you do simple tasks, such as drinking from a glass or tying shoelaces in his case. In my dad’s case, trembling occurred when he was on the phone with work.
My dad was only a few years away from retirement and was at the highest position he could hold at the police department. However, as the years progressed, so did his shaking. At the ripe age of 58, my dad retired from the job he worked at for 30 plus years.
He has since been diagnosed with Parkinson Disease.
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra. At the time of his diagnosis, he could walk, talk, drive, do everything regularly and on his own. Now, fast forward to present day, I’ve seen this disease slowly progress and take over my father’s body. He slowly walks with a cane and takes multiple medications to keep his shaking controlled, although, this has not stopped him from being an active grandpa.
My dad is now retired, home with my mom who cares for him every second of everyday. She is the rock of our family. Without her, I don’t know how I could have gotten through his diagnosis. She always seems to down play everything that is going on with him.
Her strength never ceases to amaze me.
As of right now there is no cure for Parkinson Disease. Who knows if there ever will be in our life time? My family and I are very active with the Michael J Fox Foundation and multiple Facebook support groups.