Margaret played first clarinet and collected the subs. In truth, we barely knew each other; I mimed with the second flutes and we rarely rubbed shoulders with our reeded sisters.
But she sent me an email in June 2012 which meant a lot to me at the time and still sits in my Parkinson’s folder, in case of wobbles.
I’d written to Margaret, in her capacity as membership secretary, to tell her that I was resigning from the orchestra because I’d just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Clearly my flute miming days were at an end. In fact, my difficulty in keeping up with the other second flutes was probably due to the onset of Parkinson’s – it all made sense. Nothing to do with my lack of practice, no siree.
Margaret acknowledged my letter, expressed sympathy and then continued: “But there are many degrees of Parkinson’s, and many treatments, so the outlook for you may be brighter than you first think..”
And she was right. She obviously knew a thing or two about Parkinson’s – much more than I did at the time, anyway. This spring, it’ll be six years since my diagnosis and I have been ridiculously lucky with how the condition has – or rather hasn’t – progressed. When I had my check up a few weeks ago, the doctor said that if he hadn’t known I had Parkinson’s, he wouldn’t know I had Parkinson’s. Which was immensely heartening.
I think there’s a pretty good chance that my continuing health may be due in some measure to the two drugs trials in which I’ve been involved. For me, participation in research has been a very positive thing and I would recommend this to anyone fortunate enough to be in position to get involved. There are so many promising projects out there.
Being able to exercise has also been a factor; it must be so much harder for people who are diagnosed at a stage in their life when, perhaps, the difficulty in exercising is physical rather than one of being ‘scruciating idle.
So anyway, Neil Diamond: if you’re reading this, you might want to rethink that decision about retiring because of your diagnosis; or at least put it on ice until you’re past the shock. Because, even though the press will tell you otherwise – “Lady Lucan committed suicide because she thought she had Parkinson’s” and all the rest of it – there are indeed many degrees of Parkinson’s, and many treatments, so the outlook for you may be much brighter than you first think. Plenty of good times to come, in fact.