June 10 – The Balancing Act

by Dorothy Ross


Balancing physical activities and medications with social and civic commitments is vital for people with Parkinson’s, and it isn’t easy.

With only twenty-four hours in each day, balance requires planning. If I’m lucky enough to sleep for seven or eight hours at night, I often wake up with a bad case of “off” time. I stuff my feet into my Uggs and shuffle into the bathroom for morning meds. Then I wait. And I wait. And I wait for the medications to work their magic. They will not be rushed.

Coffee clears my head of its morning fog, but it does nothing to move my feet. I don’t dare schedule any appointments before nine a.m. because I’m not safe behind the wheel until my feet can be made to obey my brain. The hours between six and nine in the morning aren’t a total loss. I type awkwardly during that time, but I can usually answer email, browse the Net, and keep up with the grandkids’ Facebook pages.

Once the morning shot of levadopa makes its way to my extremities, I’m ready to start my day. My husband and I walk our big dog in the University of California’s sprawling orchards–two or three miles most days. By the time we get back, I’m tired and “off” and I need to sit again until the next dose of meds takes effect.

I’m generally in good shape through the middle of the day. If you saw me downtown on my way to meet a friend for lunch, you might not believe I have PD. But when I get home from my outing I’m often listless and sagging, and sometimes freezing in my tracks. So I take a pill and lie down for a nap to rest up for the evening.

You don’t need a detailed itinerary of my week’s activities to understand how important it that I listen to my body and make a plan to be alert and strong when I have a commitment that requires my active participation. I’m sure that’s what Michael J. Fox does; otherwise, he couldn’t stand up to act in front of the camera.

To help me track the fluctuations in my moods and movement capabilities, my doctor has suggested that I keep a PD journal. I record the hours of sleep and naps, the timing of meds, amount of exercise, “off” hours, and social events. The details in my little book serve as vivid reminders of how important all aspects of my life are and how I must make time for family and friends and fun, as well as dance and yoga and walking–if not every day, then over the course of every week. That’s the balancing act.

Dorothy Ross facilitates the Parkinson’s Support Group in Davis, California. The subject of the current SCN writing contest suggested this piece for that support group’s blog.


5 responses to “June 10 – The Balancing Act

  1. Dorothy, your story of PD and balance rings clear for me. My brother-in-law was suffering with similar symptoms three years ago, and I can remember waiting for us to all have breakfast together while the Levodopa worked its magic. Unfortunately, other complications took Jim’s life too soon. It sounds like you know your body and your symptoms, and his doctor always pointed out how important that is.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story so that it might help others understand the mysteries of PD.

  2. Dorothy, your story touched close to my heart. As someone living with metastatic breast cancer I’m all too familiar with the type of balancing act you talk about–the need to plan everything around medications and treatments. It’s a very scary adjustment and I applaud your strength and determination and the way you are handling your illness. You’re an inspiration!

  3. Dorothy, the practice of keeping the journal sounds beautiful, a blessing. I admire your courage and enjoyed this post. How wonderful to carry your insights forward not only here, but by facilitating the support group.

  4. Quite a balancing act even for those of us who don’t have a physical challenge. Mine being a back that lets me know when it is time to STOP.

  5. I’m very touched by the responses to my post. Thank you all for taking the time to write.

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