How a Parkinson’s diagnosis “woke me up” and focused me on the present moment
In 2010 I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In a way, this was a relief, because I had been suffering from unexplained symptoms for a few years.
Right away I went online to find a support group, and I soon attended my first meeting. Although no one had been particularly welcoming, I kept attending, because I wanted to learn all I could about Parkinson’s. Not long after there was the annual general meeting, and they needed people to join the preparation committee. So I offered and was accepted, not really knowing much of what would be expected. Having a new project was good, because I didn’t have time to think of myself and dwell on the ramifications of having a chronic illness.
However, one thing that really helped me and gave me peace was to think about Chiara Luce Badano, a servant of God, who while sick with bone cancer still came to her window to wave to her friends. Even if one day I am in a wheelchair or can’t speak properly, I could still smile. Even worse, if one day I can’t use my lips, I will still smile with my eyes. It has focused me more on living the present moments I still have with determination and not putting things off.
That first year the president of the support group was very efficient and did most things herself, although she was grateful for my help as public officer. I learned about government rules for charitable organizations and dealt with local offices to make sure our forms were all signed properly. Trying to love in each situation helped me carry out this task, and the others responded with their help and were pleasant.
In my second year we had a new president and several new members, and the leadership style became much more equal. Two of the new members were men, and it came to mind that love might mean getting to know their wives and building friendships.
One was very open and friendly, but the other was quieter. I just tried to persist, and one day when I gave her husband a lift home, when she opened the door and saw me her face lit up. One of these girls subsequently went ahead with another group member’s wife to start a caretaker’s group, which has also been extremely successful. I felt it was a confirmation that love had gone out even further.
We are a small organization, and getting new members is exciting. At one meeting I arrived and heard that two new couples had come. Then I felt a little annoyed, because no one seemed to be attending to them. Remembering the lack of welcome I had felt, I tried to be extra friendly, getting membership forms and pencils for them, finding the treasurer to collect dues, etc. Then I made sure to say goodbye after the meeting.
Result: a new friendship, and one of the ladies later shared with me that at another meeting I couldn’t attend, she saw a new person and tried to welcome them as I had welcomed her! She is now on our committee, and this year she and I started a meeting for women with Parkinson’s, which has been a very positive experience. So sometimes I feel that we only need to try to love to start a river of love.
In a strange way, having a chronic illness has woken me up, and I’ve done more things that I might not have done otherwise, such as being on the committee and getting involved in other things, such as dancing and painting and exercise classes along with my social activities.
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