“I’m sorry to hear about your op,” I said to FriendlyColleague as we were hanging out by the Risograph last week. We don’t run to a water-cooler at our school, so gossip is accompanied by the sweet smell of duplicating ink.
FriendlyColleague is going in soon for a gynae thing. When I heard about it, I was reminded of a Domestic Services Manager with whom I worked at the hospital in my Life Before Teaching. She was an abrupt Glaswegian and when her cleaning staff called in sick with ‘women’s troubles’, she’d bark “So, what’s that then? Washing machine broken down again? Jammed Hoover?”
Anyway, FriendlyColleague and I had a chat about the difficulties of not being able to drive and then she said “Still, it’s not as bad as what you’ve got.”
Which was very kindly meant but did make me feel a bit of a fraud. Right now, she is coping with much more in the way of symptoms than I am. It’s just that mine have a scarier name.
At the moment, unless you happen to be a neurologist, you’d probably not spot my Parkinson’s. The tremor is very well controlled by my meds. The main effect of the shoulder ache is that it curtails my flute practice, which the family see as a positive outcome. The mood things are – well, let me put it this way: tell any group of teachers that you’re feeling a bit low, anxious and tired and they’ll point out that ‘exhaustion’ appears in our Job Description, just after the line about ‘being responsible for all the ills in society ever’ and before ‘any other duties’.
And if I didn’t know that I looked well before GrannieBorders’s funeral on Wednesday, I certainly did by the end. There were relatives who hadn’t seen me since my diagnosis and presumably didn’t know what to expect. If their idea of Parkinson’s was anything like mine this time last year, then I can’t blame them by being surprised. Just a year ago, my vision of Parkinson’s was that of my late, demented Uncle Stan. The word alone was utterly terrifying.
Well, I don’t think they’ll ever manage to make PD a life-style choice – apart from, possibly, among competitive maracas players – but learning more about it has taken the edge off the fear. I now know how much progress has been made towards managing The Nonsense. I know that nailing a cure is a real possibility. Given sufficient funding for the research – ay, there’s the rub – there’s every chance that I will see Parkinson’s conquered in the way that GrannieBorders saw Polio beaten.
Which is why I thoroughly approve of PUK’s new fundraising initiative. It’s based around a character called Dave the Worm which is a very cute looking cartoon worm. We’re told:
“He’s a C. elegans worm, and he’s actually just a millimetre long. Despite being a tiny invertebrate, Dave has 302 nerve cells, eight of which are just like the ones in the brain affected by Parkinson’s. And by studying these cells, scientists hope to learn more about Parkinson’s and how it develops.”
His website – www.davetheworm.org – gives a quick and simple introduction to Parkinson’s steering clear of horror stories. It’s very suitable for children and the emphasis is a positive one: looking at what is happening in the way of research and the progress towards a cure. Do check it out, if you can, or look at Dave’s Facebook page which features a ‘snake’ style game at which I am truly rubbish.