Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Lucky Man

Michael J. Fox and I have a couple of things in common. We both have Parkinson's disease and we both are, as in the title of his book, Lucky Men. How can I consider myself lucky when I have such a dreaded disease? Because it is not as dreaded as some other diseases.

Before I was diagnosed with P.D., in 1996, I was certain I was suffering from Amytrophic Laterasl Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease, a much more serious and rapidly fatal neuromuscular disease. I even avoided going to my primary care physician for fear of the death sentence I was sure he would inform me of.

But my symptoms kept getting worse and soon I was having difficulty ambulating, getting out of my car and rising from my bed, causing my significant-other to insist I make a doctor's appointment.

While seated in Dr. Cervante's waiting room, I tried to imagine how I would react to the inevitable news I had ALS. Soon, my name was called and I walked back into my doctor's inner sanctum. He was standing at the end of the hall. As I approached him, Dr. Cervante asked, "How long have you had Parkinson's disease, Jeff?"

"Is that all it is, Parkinson's?" I managed to say with a wide smile on my face and relief in my voice.

"Is that all?" he replied, "Isn't that enough?"

"More than enough for a man who was certain until a few minutes ago he had Lou Gehrig's disease," I answered.

That day changed my life. Not only will I never jump to conclusions about my health again, I will gladly accept whatever disease or condition I am inflicted with because I was given it for a reason.

I will always look on the up side and force all negative thoughts from my mind. No challenge is ever laid on us that we cannot handle and that wasn't meant for us to learn from. I may not move as fast as I used to and I may be slow in getting out of bed and out of my car, but, I am a lucky man.

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