This post was guest written by ChronicBabe Elizabeth A. Delisi.
“He who laughs last, laughs best.” Famous saying…I don’t know who coined the phrase. I suppose it could be interpreted as a courageous act – you know, “Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone.” And there is no place more needing of a laugh than when a ChronicBabe is fighting a chronic disease.
My dance with disease began in January of 2010, when I pointed the remote control at the television and noticed my hand was wobbling up and down. What the heck?
The trembling in my hand continued to get worse, so I saw a neurologist and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in August of 2010. That was the day that my life, and my future, changed.
My sister, who had accompanied me to the doctor, asked me how I felt about the diagnosis. I said, “I feel numb.” And to tell the truth, that feeling lingered for some time. I felt fine other than the tremor in one hand…so how could I have an incurable disease?
Well-meaning people tried to get me to join support groups, but I turned them down. I was struggling with the diagnosis as it was. I was afraid if I saw people who were worse off than I was, farther down the disease’s road, I’d give up all hope.
My attitude toward Parkinson’s started to change when I read three books written by a fellow Parkinson’s sufferer, Michael J. Fox. He spoke of how the disease gave him a chance to restructure his life and his priorities, to look at all the positives he had instead of focusing on the negatives. His words struck a chord with me, and I figured if he can be positive, so can I.
It was easier said than done. The symptom that bothered me most wasn’t the tremor, the slowness of movement, the stiff muscles, the fatigue, the weakness, or the inability to focus. I could have laughed at them. No, my least favorite symptom was a nasty case of anxiety that popped up frequently, in all sorts of situations. And it was hard to laugh when I felt an impending sense of doom hanging over my head.
But I had a husband, children, and grandchildren. I needed to do more than put on a brave face for them. I had to accept what I couldn’t change, and try to be light and happy as much as possible.
The easiest way for me to project joy was to make what the kids always called “Mom jokes.” My husband, Dan, had “Dad jokes,” too, but his were of a different character. Such as: “Oh, it’s your birthday? I hope you weren’t expecting any presents.” That’s a Dad joke. “What do you think ostriches sound like? Brraacckkkk????” That’s a Mom joke.
My first “Parkinson’s joke” was what has become my mantra: “It’s one disease to a customer, and I already have mine.” I announced to every doctor and nurse that I couldn’t possibly get, say, Alzheimer’s or cancer, because I already had my one disease, Parkinson’s. Of course the doctors didn’t promise me my mantra would come true. But then they didn’t deny it, either.
My neurologist, the doctor who had been my shepherd through this journey of Parkinson’s, was going to retire. I was thankful for his good care of me, and especially for figuring out a medicine combo that allowed me to get back the ability to knit. I’d had to give it up when the tremor got bad. So, I decided to knit him a scarf as a retirement/thank you gift. As I wrote the card to go with it, I realized my handwriting was practically illegible. I said to Dan, “My handwriting sucks! I hope the doctor can read it.”
Then we both laughed and Dan said, “He wouldn’t believe the note was from you if your writing were good.”
Another recent joke brought this reaction from my daughter: “Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Mom? Mom’s got the jokes.”
I’ve found making jokes and laughing has stood me in good stead. I can’t always stay happy…that’s not possible. But with a small amount of effort, I can stay happy a majority of the time. I find myself cheering up my husband, kids and grandkids, instead of them having to cheer me. And that makes me feel good!
As to the Parkinson’s…well, it’s not fair that I have it. Life is rarely fair. But I heard a saying recently that I plan to adopt: “Thank God life isn’t fair! Can you imagine knowing the hardships you go through are something you deserve?!”
So I laugh, and agree that I don’t deserve it, and move on to something else. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find out what ostriches really sound like!
**This is the thirteenth of many in a guest contributor series. If you would like to be considered as a guest writer for ChronicBabe, visit this link.**