It was a day I will never forget. The day I first laid eyes on Krista Brooks, MD.
Within minutes of us meeting, I knew. My life would never be the same.
I walked toward her. She knew before me. She read it in my eyes. She saw it in my facial expression.
She took my hand, and as it started to shake in hers, she said three words that changed my life forever.
No, not “I love you,” but ” You have Parkinsons.”
The world stood still. Everything went to slow motion. How old was I? I wasnt even sure at that moment, 43, 44.
Isn’t Parkinsons an old persons illness? But didn’t Michael J. Fox get this at an early age. Wasn’t that rare?
I staggered to the rest room. After splashing my face with cold water, I started to come back to my new reality.
Strangely, there is no test to determine if you have Parkinsons or PD other then doing an autopsy.
Being that I am still alive, and that I intend to stay that way for a long, long time, I opted against the autopsy (not a tough decision). What you can do is start the medication and see if it works. Unfortunately, the medication worked.
The first challenge was to continue to function as if nothing had happened. I now had a horrible secret, one not of my own making.
What also comes with the territory is going through the emotional trauma of letting your loved ones know and deal with their reaction while, at the same time, deal with your own emotions. I was exhausted.
When I finally got around to talking to my mother. Her reaction surprised me. Of course, she expressed empathy, but then she said something that I will never forget, “Everything happens for a reason.” Our family had always been fighters, but something was different.
She had said this phrase hundreds of times growing up, but something had changed, she used to say, “Everything happens for the best.” Why the change? She said, “I can’t imagine that you getting Parkinsons is for the best.” My mother unknowingly had provided the motivation to move forward. Is it possible to prove that it was for the best?
There was an event coming up in DC called The World Parkinsons Congress. My parents drove up to sit with me through a bunch of hyper-technical lectures – talk about love. Although you can’t stop the progression, you may be able to slow it. Wow, that was what I was hoping to hear (becoming a medical researcher was not an option, too late to go back to school, too old to put in 12 more years).
The to do list will not surprise you: exercise; eat right; reduce stress; laugh a lot (not really on the list); and lots of affection (not there either, but this is my list, so I will include whatever I want). By the way, eating right includes blueberries, strawberries, and (no kidding) red wine and dark chocolate. Say no more, sign me up.
This diagnosis also prompted me to do something different with my life than being the top attorney for a company.
Despite much concern, I started teaching several undergraduate classes at the University of Louisville and opened my own inspirational speaking & consulting business (LearnSuccessToday.com and ProactivePreventionCulture.com).
I am scheduled to speak in Cincinatti, Birmingham and Houston in 2011. Possibly also Indianapolis and Phoenix. I will present anywhere, anytime (TheInspiringEsquire.com). My talk in entitled “Transforming Yourself Into a Proud Person with Parkinsons: The Power of Posi-spective (Positive Perspective).” For a preview, go to http://theinspiringesquire.com/2010/11/04/proud-person-with-parkinsons-explained-by-john-baumann-on-talk-radio-interview/
In addition, just as there is much that can we done to proactively prevent, or at least slow, the progression of Parkinsons, I have dedicated my energy and passion to eliminate workplace harassment, reduce workplace injuries, teach supervisory skills based upon appreciation and respect, enhance success skills, and speak on Parkinsons. My focus in all these presentations is to elevate awareness and understanding by providing instructive real life examples, engaging imagery and appropriate humor. I also hosted an Internet Talk Show on success.
This is where I am- enjoying life, enjoying work.
Oh yeah, did I mention that I have Parkinsons and I guess proud of it.
You can even call me a Proud Person with Parkinsons.
And my mother now believes that this is for the “best.”