a novel by Elizabeth Langdon Andrews



Posted on May 7, 2017 at 9:05 AM


I’m delighted to report that I had a wonderful week: I spent most of it with Madison in Chicago and the rest traveling with Kerry. Now that my life is doubtless late into its third quarter at best, my most cherished moments are simply being with my husband and daughter, especially when the three of us can all be together “like old times.” Kerry had a conference in Wisconsin for part of the week, so Madison graciously invited me to stay with her while Dad was away. In return, I forked over upwards of $1K for a bona-fide upscale hotel getaway that we were all able to enjoy for a precious couple of days. I live for those times.

Given my recent knock-down-drag-outs with my meds, I was concerned about the PD Beast’s behavior on this visit – even though our hotel was virtually steps away from Feinberg Medical School (where Madison works as a Research Coordinator) -- an institution renowned for its Parkinson’s Center of Excellence. The Beast must have sensed some power in the place; it was quiet and caused no trouble at any time the whole week, even with the complication of a time zone change. Go figure. In fact, the meds worked a tad too well. Let me explain.

One side-effect that I have neither read nor heard much about, but have experienced countless times (maybe once a week), is what I call the Superwoman Illusion. It’s not like any other “high” I have ever experienced, seen, or heard tell of. Not exactly. Mind you, the PD gold standard drug is dopamine, a substance naturally produced in your brain; if your brain stops producing it, voila! You’re a Parkie. It’s pretty simple. What’s not simple are the countless ways that dopamine – which is also intimately linked to serotonin (the calming natural substance that we also produce and/or immediately follows our indulgence in, say, chocolate or sex or some other pleasure) – can affect the entire human organism. What seems to happen is that all systems align at peak performance simultaneously, which rarely happens to “normal” humanoids, let alone Parkies. Fact is, I don’t think it happens to “normal” beings simply because they don’t have synthetic dopamine (leading to enhanced serotonin), all wrapped up in a perfect storm and working as an enhacement.

Regardless, the ON feeling it produces is incredibly empowering. When I have it, I’m “superhumanly” insightful, calm, creative, and fearless. Never mind that 30 minutes earlier I may have been locked into a near-fetal position and could barely remember my name – let alone the fact that my “super” illusion lasts an hour at the outside: I feel as if I could do anything. Thankfully, my hobby is writing instead of knife-throwing, or I could do some real damage.

Anyway, it was in this stage of my daily routine that I wrote elsewhere on FB that I was so outraged by the healthcare mess that, by golly, I was gonna give Jimmy Duncan a run for all his money that he soon wouldn’t forget.

You may laugh now. The truth is that I couldn’t run for dog catcher without doing major damage to my stress level, and that’s only the start of what an idiotic idea I put forward! But in the hour I wrote about it, or if I were still normal, I truly believed, as the “old me” would have believed, that I could have made a difference, even if it were just creating havoc and kicking up dust. Those days are behind me. Besides, there are productive ways to raise hell with the status quo that will keep me backstage, where I belong now – although I was entirely delighted by my high school pal, Harlan Hambright’s observation that if I could get myself in Congress and look like an idiot, I’d fit right in.

Hmm. You think …? But no. The unvarnished truth is that I wouldn’t be writing this chronicle entry if I weren’t in an ON mode; that (and many even simpler tasks) would be impossible, both physically and cognitively. I’m not in my Superwoman mode today, either -- just enjoying some garden-variety ON time, and I’ll gladly take it! Fact is, when I compare any modicum of ON time to that hideous world the Parkies call “OFF TIME” – the one I’m constantly trying to outsmart, outdistance, or outdo – it’s no contest; when we’re ON, we Parkies tend to feel “superhuman,” if only for a few stolen minutes or hours in the day.

Re-reading this entry, it occurs to me how easy it is to recognize miracles once you’ve been on their flip side. Believe me when I insist that normal human motor skills and thought processes are miracles. Be grateful that you have any at all, and know that you are a walking miracle.

So, by now it should be obvious: although I’m both grateful for and flattered by your encouragement – I’m not running for Congress or anything else, Mr. Hambright’s observation notwithstanding. Congressman Duncan can rest easy.

For now.

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