Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease almost 6 years ago… Geez. I guess it’s true what they say, “Time flies when you’re having fun”. I have no idea who “they” are, but “they” seem to be experts in everything, including the amount of amusing moments that a neurological disease can bring forth. Sorry, I digress. Back to getting diagnosed… I embraced the Parkinson’s community and dove right in. I went to support groups, community events, conferences, online seminars and fitness classes. Anything that I could get my little Parkie paws into, I did. Then to top off my time in the PD community, I currently work in a Movement Disorder Clinic, which has exposed me to many families, individuals and couples who were being challenged by the Parkinson’s devil.
So as you might imagine, I have had the honor to meet many people, from all different genders, races and cultures that have in some way been impacted by PD. It has been my experience that most Parkies fall into 5 different categories. Now before I begin to describe the variations, please keep in mind the following…
– I use the word “Parkie” to describe a person diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Just like myself, “The Perky Parkie”, I feel it sounds better than “Person with Parkinson’s disease”. I use this as an endearing, caring and respectful term. When you have Parkinson’s, you become a member of a special community and I see using “Parkie” as a way of embracing each other in our group of shared interest. Kind of like an elite club… we only have the most awesomest people in our club and everyone wants in, but only the select few become members. We even have a secret handshake… get it? Handshake?
-Each type of Parkie described in this blog, doesn’t imply that the Parkie will be only that type throughout the progression of their illness. They may start off as one type, but then switch to another. Each person is different… just like snowflakes.
-The types of Parkies described here have different characteristics but I am not implying that one type is better than another. There is no contest here. No blue ribbon to pass out… sorry.
So now that I have cleared the air… here are the 5 types of Parkies:
1. Scientific Sam: This type of Parkie is all about the science behind the diagnosis. They will learn the anatomy brain and how the body is impacted physically and cognitively by Parkinson’s disease. They will be interested in the latest research studies and will have accumulated their own data on the progress of the disease. They might participate in clinical trials with pride knowing that they are helping scientists get closer to finding a cure. They will know what’s coming down the pipeline and will be excited to see scientific progress.
2: Avoider Alan: This type of Parkie will push the diagnosis out of their minds. They will not want to go to support groups or other Parkinson’s related events out of fear of seeing “what they might become”. They might feel that the best way of coping with PD is to not let it take over their lives. They don’t want to talk about it, even if symptoms are obvious to loved ones. They are not interested in the latest research or treatment options. They could possibly deny that PD is even the true diagnosis. They might feel like their time in life is limited, so they’re choosing to suck every minute out of it and put Parkinson’s on the back burner.
3. Dive-in Diana: This type of Parkie has embraced their diagnosis and is active in the community. They might belong to various online forums and looks forward to connecting with other Parkies. Although they may not be into the Science as much as Sam, they still are interested in new information about treatment options. They might be the first Parkie to volunteer to bake cupcakes for the local fundraiser or they could extend their reach by getting involved on a national level. This Parkie will know where the closest support group is and looks forward to the upcoming conferences.
4. Victimized Vince: This type of Parkie feels that Parkinson’s disease is a death sentence. They ask the question, “Why me?” Most of the time, they will avoid being around other people because they can’t see past their illness. They will feel like a burden on their loved ones and will blame every negative thing that happens on their diagnosis. They might complain a lot, but will not change. They will say they want help, but won’t accept any assistance when offered.
5. Laughing Lucy: This type of Parkie uses humor to ease the pain and reality of their PD diagnosis. They will be optimistic, but realistic about the future. They will be the first to crack a joke related to their most troublesome symptom and is not afraid to laugh at themselves when they are moving as slow as a snail. This Parkie will still have sad times, but chooses to focus on the positive side. They’re a glass is half full of frozen yogurt kind of Parkie and will try to bring a smile to those they reach.
By now you should have recognized that my observation (which is strictly for entertainment purposes and has no scientific backing) of the 5 types of Parkies is about as accurate as reading your horoscope in the newspaper. You might not fit into one category. Maybe you’ve had been all these types at some point, or maybe you’re a hybrid… you are multiple types in one amazing Parkie. Regardless of our type, I am happy and proud to be a member of our elite club.
Image by my friend Martin Bee