DISCOVERING MY FRIEND HAD PARKINSON'S DISEASE
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My name is Ann. Three years ago a close friend of mine, Geraldine, was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. She was only 35. Even though she had been unwell for some time and had a slight tremor, I was totally shocked by the diagnosis. Could this be right? Maybe they got it wrong. She was too young! There were many other conditions I had wondered about but Parkinsons Disease never crossed my mind. I remember thinking "what is PD and what will it mean for Geraldine?" Geraldine was, and still is, a very extrovert person and loves life. Would she be able to cope with this? She is married and has two boys aged 13 and 10.
After the initial diagnosis we spent many hours at night discussing everything i.e. symptoms, progression, medication etc. Geraldine was at home all the time. She was off sick from work and felt a bit uncomfortable about going out in public. I remember saying to her that, once that once she took that first step, everything would be easier. I knew she felt scared; how would she handle the questions and presumably people staring at her. People had already come up to me to ask were the rumours about her illness true. I remember my eyes filling with tears and I just nodded my head.
I had started to gather information about PD so as to educate myself, and initially I was a bit frightened by what I was learning. Sometimes I cried but I shed my tears when I was alone. Then one day Geraldine suggested a visit to the library to get books on PD so that she too could learn more. I was speechless! Could she handle the information? Would she get depressed? However, we made the trip, got some books and spent many hours reading them and writing down the information that was relevant to Geraldine at that particular time. We learned a lot together and, to be perfectly honest, the saying "forewarned is forearmed" is very true. I have to say that Geraldine's outlook amazed me. She was very strong and very positive all the time.
From a personal point of view there were times when I felt totally inadequate and guilty, why Geraldine I wondered? Life was good for her, what did she do to deserve this terrible cross to bear? Was there really a God up there? We socialised a lot together. We were being asked to go different places but sometimes Geraldine would not have been able to go and I felt really guilty about going and her having to stay at home because she was not well enough to attend.
I remember going away one weekend. Geraldine was in great form when I was leaving. On my return I was told that Geraldine was on a walking stick. I was completely shocked. My first thoughts were "I don't want to see her like that. I can't face her". However that was the coward's way out. I went to see her and sure enough I was shocked. I could not believe the change in the course of a weekend. I tried to say all the right things to reassure Geraldine and not let her see how shocked I really was, but I'm not sure whether it was myself I was trying to reassure! Thankfully this relapse was not permanent and after some time Geraldine was back to her old self, "Shaky Spice", whom we have all come to know and love.
Today Geraldine is reasonably good health. She takes a variety of medication, which helps, and gives her a good quality of life. I constantly keep reminding her to take them and she keeps telling people that "I am like a hump on her back" in this regard.
Finally for others who find themselves in this situation, DON'T PANIC! Stay positive, learn about PD, give encouragement and be there when times are rough. Remember this is still your friend even though life has changed. I have attended meetings of PALS in order to get a better understanding of PD and have made lots of new friends. This has been a great source of help for me. Don't give up hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel! You are not alone!