Why My First Year with Parkinson’s Was My Best Year Ever

New Year’s Day 2011 marked the end of the first calendar year after my diagnosis with Parkinson's disease in September 2009. I've concluded, surprisingly, that that year was probably my best ever.

Reading this, you might well wonder: If your first year with a PD diagnosis was your best, were your earlier years that miserable?

On the contrary, I've had a pretty good life. Professionally, within a month of leaving Cornell in 1955, I landed an editorial job at BNA, an employee-owned legal publisher in Washington, DC, where I enjoyed a 40-year career in labor relations and employment law, rising to become a board member and vice president of HR by the time I retired.

Personally, my life changed for the better once I got sober and came out in 1978. My kids make me grateful for the years I tried to hide in a marriage, and to this day, I have yet to find anyone with whom I'm as compatible as I was with my now-deceased wife.

When I got sober and became honest about my innate nature, I quickly acquired a community and support network of others who were going through the same struggles. My life since then has been full of fun, friends, and rewards. Those first exhilarating years of being sober and out are close runner-ups for the "Best Year" award.

But 2010 still wins the gold medal for the following reasons:

  1. PD has given me a new focus, challenge, and cause.
  2. Knowing what I'm dealing with and using the PD meds and exercises has restored my spirits, energy, and drive.
  3. 5-HTP has alleviated my depression, insomnia, and constipation, greatly enhancing the quality of my life. It also has had some interesting side effects.
  4. Working on this blog definitely adds to the quality of my life—I love doing this!
  5. My PD support group and online support networks give me a community in which to share my experiences, strengths, hopes and laughs.
  6. I've returned to meditation and find it to be more helpful than ever, particularly when combined with 5-HTP.
  7. Exercise has been a BIG factor in making 2010 my best year ever.
  8. My days are more filled than ever with activities that keep me interested and involved.
  9. Last and definitely not least, my already strong support network of family and friends got even stronger in 2010.

No problems? Of course 2010 was not problem-free. Life always is a hassle.

One of my best friends lost his 15-year struggle with cancer. Several friends were hard-hit by the recession, while others are struggling with health problems and the lack of affordable insurance. My libido seems to be sinking and almost disappearing (which might be a blessing given my past history).

Enough about me. How about you? I’d love to hear from you about how you’ve been dealing with any of these issues.

Washington, DC, resident John Schappi blogs about aging, exercise, diet, pills, supplements, and his life with Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer. Once upon a time, he was addicted to nicotine, alcohol and sex. These days, his passions include gardening, playing bridge, meditating, going to the theater and traveling.

Visit: Aging, Parkinson’s, and Me

View full profile

You May Also LikeSee all guides >

Veterans' Benefits

Find federal benefits available to your family.

Home Care

How to find, hire and manage home care.

Caregivers' Survival

Everything you need to care for an elderly family member.

Get the latest care advice and articles delivered to your inbox!