Friday, January 17, 2014

Winter Bicycling With Parkinson's Disease: Beyond the "Experimental" Phase Into the "Confirmed Whacko" phase.

Last winter I experimented with bicycling as an alternative to driving. Why? My driving ability has eroded significantly over the ten years since my Parkinson's diagnosis. To make a long story short, I've chosen to ride my bike year round to minimize my driving. (You can find out more here, in my first winter cycling post) I'm well into my second cycling Winter, and the fact that I am even composing this piece amounts to a small victory. It means that, in spite of everything, I am neither dead, nor so severely maimed that I am unable to continue. Yay. I have moved beyond the "experimental" phase into the "confirmed whacko" phase.

I did not measure my actual mileage last winter, but it was certainly significant. My sense is that I am lagging a bit this winter. Why? There seems to be more days when there is fresh snow on the trails which makes riding significantly slower. Second I am a bit intimidated by the recent death of a cyclist in town. Plus a few falls of my own have rendered me a bit more conservative. Nevertheless I remain committed to riding all winter.

Why expose myself to the danger and discomfort of winter riding?

This calls for a pie chart. Hold on while I whip one up... Here we are. Let's run through it, starting with the bad reasons. First, stupidity. Is it stupid to ride your bike during Winter? Yes. A simple checklist confirms this unfortunate fact. Cold? Check. Ice? Check. Cars? Check. Dark? Check. Well that's settled. Let's move on...

Machismo. Hold it buckaroo, isn't machismo a subset of stupidity? Wellllll, yes, I guess. But it IS only characteristic of one gender, and therefore distinct and interesting enough to merit its own category. I estimate that 12.5% of my motivation to ride through the winter is machismo. It would be more, but with PD, that's about all the machismo I can summon up.

Guilt, in the form of remorse for my carbon footprint, combined with my desire to avoid guilt should I cause a car accident, drives a rather hefty 12.5% of my motivation. And I wasn't even raised as a Catholic! Sheesh!

Moving to positive reasons for riding, we have 15%  sheer fun (and thrills). A masssive 25% of my motivation comes from the all-important role exercise plays in of coping with Parkinson's Disease. Finally, we have the savings on the cost of monthly car payments, gas, insurance and clever bumper stickers coming in at a solid 25%. Disclaimer: All elements involved in this chart are estimates; your mileage may vary.

Have I eliminated the infernal combustion system entirely from my appointed rounds? No. I still rely on my wife and others to chauffeur me at times. And I still climb behind the wheel on rare occasions. But I have found that I can take care of an enormous amount of daily errands, such as going to the bank, the Post Office, even moderate grocery shopping, on my bike. Sure, there is risk, but what the hell, I've already got Parkinson's Disease. My riding days are numbered. I can't let a little thing like Winter get in the way.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Day With Parkinson's Disease, Final Page!

More with a whimper than a bang- the final installment of A Day With Parkinson's Disease. A few thoughts to close with. First, everybody has a different case of Parkinson's Disease. Some have no tremor, some have strongly predominant tremor. Some progress through the disease stages quickly, some slowly. Some are affected more on their right side, others on the left, and so on. So a day with PD is likely to be very different from one individual to another. And one person can vary substantially from day to day. I took notes all day on a day chosen at random to base this narrative on. It is faithful to those notes for that day except for obvious exaggeration for humor, i.e. exploding curry. If I seem to be coping well, it's more due to luck than personal virtue. First and foremost I was lucky to marry a person of great steadfastness and understanding. Second I am benefiting from years of patient and difficult research and the imaginative thinking of doctors, scientists and patients who have collaborated over the long run to find the medications and surgical procedures that I benefit from every day. Without them I would be bedridden right now. Finally, thank you for reading and commenting. Your thoughts and observations help me to clarify what I do and where it goes. A cartoonist without readers is a bird without a sky. The entire project is collected and sequenced here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Anchorage Parkinson's Disease Happenings for January

Hi friends, it's January, the start of a brand new year (wild cheering, thunderous applause) with PARKINSON'S DISEASE (furious booing, nasty profanity). What are we going to do about it? Well, there is the continuing telehealth series, for one. The next telehealth broadcast is set for Monday January 13 at 1:00 pm in room 2401 of the Providence oncology wing on Piper St.  Go to the second floor, walk down the lonnnnnnnng hall that stretches South from the cafe and look for room 2401 pretty much at the end of the hall on your right. This time the broadcast will feature Ian Riley, owner of fitness chain Oz Fitness. He will talk about being diagnosed in his early forties, how he copes and manages a demanding business nine years into his diagnosis. Ian likes questions and you are urged to send them in advance in care of Cyndi via center@spokaneparkinson'

As is our custom, the regular group meeting will be Saturday, January 18 at the Pioneer Home. You will recall that I recently uttered a pitiful "No mas" to continuing as head of this group, and asked if anyone out there in PD land would be willing to step up and assume the position. Happily, while nobody wanted to be the grand Poohbah of Northern Parkies, several  brave souls volunteered to take some of the load off me. So I will come with a list of things that I do to keep things rolling, and we'll see about who would like to take some of the different chores. Sally Spieker has volunteered to be in charge of getting guests in to talk to us. And the Rineharts have offered to help, too. For which I am deeply grateful. This will also provide a good opportunity to  discuss what you want or need from the group, and how to advance  in a fruitful direction for 2014.
Your ceremonial Head,