HOW THE PANDEMIC HELPED ME OPEN UP ABOUT MY PARKINSON'S
Best Health|August/September 2021
Recently, my family and I ventured north of our home in Ajax, Ont., to the Bruce Peninsula to go hiking at Greig’s Caves.
DR. SOANIA MATHUR

The website for this natural attraction describes 10 limestone caves nestled in an environment of “peace and tranquillity”—but also warns, with a “caution” sign on its home page, that the trail is challenging.

My family wasn’t always into hiking. Like so many others, wandering the outdoors, and even traipsing around in the winter snow, is a hobby we adopted during the pandemic. It was a way for us to get out of the house and be together as a family. It also had a happy side effect of helping my Parkinson’s disease symptoms by improving my balance and mobility, and reducing my slowness and rigidity.

There’s a misconception that Parkinson’s is an old person’s affliction. But this disease, which 25 Canadians are diagnosed with each day, knows no boundaries in terms of age, ethnicity, race or geographic location.

I was only 28 when I noticed a tremor in my right pinky finger. I had just finished my residency and was starting a new family practice. I was also pregnant with my first child, and as a physician, I knew my symptoms were not pregnancy related.

When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, my initial reaction was denial. I spent the first decade of my diagnosis busying myself to avoid dealing with the disease. I would look at my day, and if I had pediatric vaccinations scheduled, I’d time my Parkinson’s medications accordingly so I wasn’t shaking while administering shots. I wanted to do my job without Parkinson’s interfering. But that can only last so long.

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease, meaning it’s a brain disease that gets progressively worse—and since there’s no cure, the only thing you can do is manage your quality of life. I was a bad patient, as many physicians are, and eventually, I reached a point where that wasn’t an option anymore. I’m normally a happy-go-lucky person. I have a lot of blessings including three beautiful daughters, a very supportive husband and a wonderful circle of friends and family. But I felt this dark cloud hanging over me. I didn’t laugh as much. I wasn’t sleeping. I was overmedicating, trying to control my symptoms, as well as the numerous drug side effects. I became pessimistic.

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