Many years ago,I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I was experiencing some tremors and rigidity in my hands, and my primary care physician suggested I see a neurologist, Dr. Joseph Friedman. I had just assumed these symptoms were simply aging or stress, or maybe even nothing, but with his referral, I began to realize that this could be something serious.
I can still remember that day so clearly, when after exams and testing, Dr. Friedman said matter-of-factly: "Sandi, you have Parkinson's disease." I was only 39 years old and a single mom of two young boys. I burst into tears – how could this be happening? I had so many questions, so many fears, so much confusion, but couldn't utter a single response. I could only think to put my head in my hands and cry. After doing a great deal of soul-searching and, admittedly, researching on the internet, I went back to Dr. Friedman, determined to keep control of my life and stay off medication for as long as possible. I was armed with questions about alternative and complementary care. He patiently listened and remarked on each one, working with me to develop a plan to keep me physically active and mentally engaged.
I have grown to respect and count on Dr. Friedman. What I appreciate most about him as my physician is that he has supported my decision to seek alternative therapies, encouraging me to maintain a strict regime of massage, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic care, weights and cardio workouts that I had developed. I have had to make a 100 percent commitment to this routine – it is quite a challenge with two teenagers in the house, but it has been working. The progression of my disease has been slow and today I only take a small dose of medication to help tackle the rigidity. My friends may feel they are a "slave to the gym", but for me it is a physical and emotional rush, knowing it helps me gain control over my disease and of my life.
I hope that The Aronson Chair for Neurodegenerative Disorders will help Butler Hospital get the word out about Parkinson's disease. I was amazed to find that at Butler there are physicians who care for you as a whole person – your physical and emotional wellbeing – and will push you to stay active, positive, to ask questions about your symptoms and treatments, and to be an active part of your own health and life.