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Laugh, exercise, and eat right

As someone who’s lived with the ups and downs of Parkinson’s disease for 13 years, I can tell you that being able to laugh at ourselves ranks right up there with physical exercise as an effective treatment. I have learned to find humor in almost anything, no matter how embarrassing.

Just the other day, I was working at my computer when I realized my underwear had somehow wedged into my butt. I stuck my hand down the back of my pants to pull it out and immediately impaled the stem of my watch on the inside of my knit slacks.

I rolled back my chair to bring myself to a standing position that would afford me a better view of the situation and give me better arm movement, but I quickly saw the folly in that. Who was I kidding? I had visions being stuck at my desk -- one arm painfully bent and pinned behind my back -- until my husband arrived home to rescue me.

I mulled over my options. There was no way I was going to call 9-1-1 and explain my predicament to some 30-year-old fire rescue type, so I threw caution to the wind and yanked my arm out of my pants, leaving a small hole in the waistband as a “remember when.”

Laughter is my coping strategy of choice when life does not go according to my plan. My back-up strategy is sitting with a box of Kleenex and crying while watching chick flicks and eating junk food, either separately or as a combined activity. Research shows laughter can help relieve pain, take the focus off negative emotions, provide physical and emotional releases, and connect us to others. It also is a form of exercise, working the diaphragm and heart, contracting the abs and relaxing shoulder muscles. 

Most of us live with more than one chronic illness. As if having Parkinson’s disease is not enough, many of us also deal with health issues like high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, sciatica, and spinal stenosis. The list goes on and on.

I spend half my life trying to keep my symptoms at bay. If it’s Monday, I’m on the Pilates Reformer machine. Tuesday I work with a personal trainer. Wednesday it’s back on the Reformer machine. Thursday is free choice, which means you’ll find me in my basement heading soccer balls and boxing on the Nintendo Wii. Friday I swim laps. Are we having fun yet?

eating hotdogs - yum!

Three times a week I go for acupuncture to mitigate my pain and stave off the need for surgery. Next up is a consultation with a dietician who I hope can help me shed 50 pounds and give my bones a break (poor choice of words).

I expect she will put an end to my self medicating with peanut M & M’s and dark chocolate covered raisins, but I will try my best to convince her that together they provide a diet high in protein, fruit, and anti-oxidants. She’s not likely to bite, but I am compelled to try. Why would anyone choose to snack on celery when chocolate candy and cookies beckon us from every gas station mini mart ?

Even if a tuna sandwich is “brain food,” given a choice, I’d reach for the all-beef hot dog every time.

I have only 10 days until I meet with the dietician and believe me, this is no laughing matter. Once she takes away my comfort foods, all I will have left to manage my stress levels is my sense of humor … and maybe not even that. Dieting, and the self-deprivation associated with it, does not bring out my best qualities.


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