taken from a story written by
Robyn Davis Sekula
Published in Business First Magazine
Published in Business First Magazine, Louisville, Ky, June 2007
For nearly 30 years, Carol McLeod has lived with some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but it wasn’t until 10 years ago that she had a name for it.
When she was in her 20s, McLeod, now 57, developed a tremor in her foot that she believes probably was part of her Parkinson’s.
The tremors got worse, and she developed a stiff walk by the time she was in her late 40s, and she also began to feel that she was losing some of her memory.
She avoided doctors in general because she was afraid she had Alzheimer’s disease and didn't want to deal with that possibility.
“By the time I did go. it took him less than two minutes to diagnose me with Parkinson’s,” McLeod said.
McLeod was shocked by the diagnosis. But she vowed to fight the effects of the disease as much as she could. She takes Requip, which staves off tremors but makes her sleepy, and also Provigil, which keeps her from falling asleep. Vitamin E and Coenzyme Q-lO are supplements she takes.
Crafting a richer life
McLeod also has developed a few new hobbies, such as playing the harmonica and designing Web sites to exercise her brain.
“I was less functional 10 years ago than I am now,” McLeod said. “My doctor thinks, and I think, too, that your brain can learn to get things done if you push it.”
McLeod works primarily as an artist. And she has woven Parkinson’s into her work as a theme from time to time. Her painting called “Five More Years” depicts faces and a clock. It symbolizes the amount of time doctors have told her she has before the disease really affects the quality of her life and also the amount of time some believe will be needed to find a cure for Parkinson's.
McLeod and several other artists recently participated in the Parkinson’s Art Hop, a fund-raiser for the Parkinson’s Support Center in Louisville.
McLeod has made some major lifestyle decisions, knowing that the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s could find her in a few years. After her husband was killed in a car accident in 2002, she decided to move to the Highlands from her home in Union, a rural Northern Kentucky community. Her home there had almost two acres of land, and that was too much for her to keep up. Also, she knows that she might not be able to drive in a few years, so McLeod wanted a location that would allow her to walk to restaurants, shops and other amenities. The Highlands has suited her well.
McLeod takes her medication and supplements religiously, and she is aware of the effects of the disease. She avoids stressful situations, which can trigger tremors, and she types rather than handwrites notes. As one of the “quirks” of the disease, Parkinson's patients often notice that they don't swing their arms when they walk, so McLeod tries to make sure that she does that in order to provide a more natural gait as she walks.
She refuses to give in to the disease.
“I'm too curious to stay home and too curious to stay in bed,” McLeod said. “I expect to go do things. so I get up and go do them. I don't want to miss anything."
RED FLAGS FOR PARKINSON’S
Signs and symptoms: Tremors; slowness of movement; rigidity; difficulty with balance; small, cramped handwriting; stiff facial expression; shuffling walk; muffled speech; depression
Who gets Parkinson's disease: Parkinson's disease affects both men and women in almost equal numbers. It shows no social, ethnic, economic or geographic boundaries. Although the condition usually develops after the age of 65, 15 percent of those diagnosed are under age 50.
How many cases: In the United States, it is estimated that 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, joining the 1.5 million Americans who currently have Parkinson's disease.