After one of my few trips to Costco that didn’t leave me loathing humanity, I stopped at the Food Court to purchase a soda. With my cup in hand, I went to the soda station.
“We’re making a mess here,” said a woman to a little girl I assumed was her daughter, as the duo cleaned up the soda on the metal counter. “All of us do sometimes,” I said.
Then my uncoordinated hands fumbled as I tried to insert the straw into my cup’s plastic lid, loosening it in the process. “Just like I am now,” I said, while cleaning up my own soda overflow. I smiled and willed myself to focus on my self-appointed role as “Ambassador of Good Cheer.” We shared another superficial, quiet, reflexive smile-like-laugh – and headed away from each other to our separate lives.
I will make more messes more frequently than that little girl as my disease progresses. She will never know this, but I’ve been fixated on this reality all day.
The Movement Disorders Clinic where I was diagnosed and where I will be seen every six months is in a basement. It was there, under the glare of fluorescent lights, where I heard definitively what I’d known in my gut since the first neurologist told me that it was neither a brain tumor nor multiple sclerosis causing my hand to shake.
The diagnosis was what my dear friend, a neurologist, who’d helped me leapfrog the line to get this appointment suspected and what the department head decreed with a mere glance at my left arm.
“I know I’m grasping at straws here, but could it be anything else?”
“No. It’s Parkinson’s Disease,” he replied.
There was more discussion and a prescription that the department’s fellow, a younger physician, said had neuro-protective possibilities — a definite plus when the brain cells that produce dopamine aren’t doing so well.
“Well, if I have to get Parkinson’s disease, I guess now is the time to get it,” I said, in an effort to embrace my inner optimist.
“Actually, 10 years from now would be a better time to get it…” responded my new, favorite, too-blunt-to-bullshit doctor. “I have patients who’ve had Parkinson’s for decades…,” he continued. “I plan to be amongst them,” I countered. He smiled as did his younger colleague. I know that telling a 50-year-old woman that she has a progressive neurological disorder was not the highlight of their day. I appreciate how directly they did it and believe I’ll be in good hands.
I repeated the diagnosis to myself on the westward drive back to the rest of my life, staring at my trembling left hand at stoplights. The label fits like a jacket in need of tailoring. Time, I will need time to process this.
I wish I were Parker Posey instead of a Parkie Person but I am who I am and it is what it is. The sun will rise in the east once again and I will wake up to its rays – well, likely before they peek in through the curtains, darn Daylight Savings time – and I will still be me, even though I am now me with a tremor. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and I will parse my emotions accordingly.
I know that no one triumphs over death, but I do plan to be around to opine for many years to come. Maybe I’ll even live long enough to learn to love Costco – and share a soda and its overflow with another sweet little girl.