William A. Parrette's Tremor Disorder -- Part 3

[A side view of a brain]

I did notice other symptoms starting to appear. On occasion, my vision would blur -- especially when I was trying to read smaller text. I also noticed that, in order to read comfortably, I required brighter or stronger light. Also, my right eye started feeling different once in a while. At times, I would be hyper-aware of the eye socket in my skull -- it would feel deeper than the one my left side. At the same time, it seemed as if a very translucent veil were in front of the eye. It didn't impair the vision, but there was a definite difference in clarity between the left and the right eye.

Throughout this two-year period, the tremors gradually worsened. I had done a little bit of reading and research on Parkinson's Disease and, it seemed to me, that the tremors were worsening much faster than I had heard described. And, if the Sinemet had any effect at all, the effects were negligible and wore off much faster than I had heard described. To make matters worse, every time I came down with any other illness, my tremors would worsen noticeably.

For example, in late May of 1997, I was out of town on business when I came down with one of the worse colds I have ever experienced. It was so bad that I would almost describe it as "walking pneumonia." I would "peck" at my food -- I ate hardly anything. And, I am sure that I looked like "walking death" to the students that were in the class I was teaching that week. I had aches and pains on my aches and pains and I felt totally miserable. I lost about 30 pounds in a two-week period. And, a severe depression set in -- so bad that I gave more than half a thought to suicide. It was absolutely the worst I had ever felt in my entire life and I have no idea how I made it through class that week. My symptoms worsened with the tremors moving into my right leg.

On another occasion, in November of 1997, I caught a "smaller" flu-like bug. I had a scratchy throat, a slightly runny nose, but that's about all. But, after I recovered, it seemed to me that my hand tremor had worsened again.

I don't know if I can convey how a disease that has such a visible effect on the physical body makes me feel. Every time I talk to somebody, I wonder if they notice the tremors; every time I sit with my wife at a restaurant or some night spot, I wonder if the people next to us can see me shaking; every time I teach a class -- every hour of every day -- I wonder if the students can see my hand shaking as I point to or write on the board or if the can see my leg shaking as I stand and lecture or walk around the room. And, if that wasn't enough ...

Every new physical symptom or sensation makes me wonder if there has been another progression in the disease. Every time my vision blurred, I wondered if I would go blind; every time I stumbled a bit in walking, I wondered if I would become crippled; Once, when I had a tiny, little, dizzy spell, I wondered if I would somehow become incapacitated; every time any little "quirk" popped up in my physical body, I wondered if I could continue having a normal, productive existence or if I would have to have someone taking care of me for the rest of my life. And, if that wasn't enough ...

Whether anybody else notices or not, the tremors are very noticeable to me. I can't help but think that, no matter how hard I try to hide them, everybody else must notice them too. I've developed into a fairly laid-back, easy-going type of guy -- I typically don't let much of anything bother me. But, now, I'm absolutely sure that most everyone is staring at me wondering, of course, "what's wrong with that guy?" Interestingly, I've taken to looking at other people's hands, arms, and legs -- both at rest and in motion -- to see if I notice tremors in anybody else! I was fairly paranoid as a child and a teenager, but this disease has magnafied my paranoia to an extreme -- I think everybody is looking at me. And, if that wasn't enough ...

At this time (late 1997, early 1998) I am looking for a new job! How can I reasonably sit through one or more interviews without someone noticing my tremors? Worse yet, the only people who are showing any interest are contracting companies (companies that contract your services to other companies) and every six months to a year I would have to endure another interview for another contract with a different prospective employer. I know, I know ... the Americans With Disabilities Act. But, I can't reasonably expect to support my family if I am spending valuable time and money legally fighting the people who won't employ me. It seemed to be a Catch-22!

There is an interesting twist -- a change that has occurred in the symptoms. Recently (early January 1998), I've noticed that it can take a half an hour or more for the tremors to "establish" themselves in the morning. Then, it seems to me that the tremors are much stronger and more noticeable during the morning hours. But, as the day progresses, the tremors start to diminish and become less noticeable. They never go away -- they just get less noticeable.

Another thing: My tremors are not the classic "resting tremor" that is described in the Parkinson's literature. In fact, I can sit or lay at rest and one would notice very little tremor activity. In fact, I am able to use relaxation techniques and/or put my brain into hemispheric synchronization and make the tremors disappear. My tremors are most noticeable during minimal physical activity: eating, drinking, writing, and the like. For example, I have a hard time holding a sandwich still enough to eat or a can of soda still enough to drink. The tremors become less noticeable as physical activity increases.

Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts on some of the symptoms that are said to be "classic" in people with Parkinson's Disease:

[A symbol for a hand]

Resting Tremor
As I said previously, if I am "at rest," just laying or sitting with no physical stress, perhaps reading, watching television, or sitting and working at my computer, I notice almost no tremors at all. And, when I do notice a tremor, I can almost always make it go away using relaxation techniques or hemispheric synchronization. The tremors are most noticeable when I am lightly active. To date, the tremors have never involved the head, neck, face, or jaw.

I am frequently tired and fatigued. However, I am almost always this way. I have always attributed this to a lack of exercise (I am about 50 pounds over weight, my diet leaves a lot to be desired, and my blood pressure is usually a little on the high side), frequent work in front of a computer monitor, and not getting enough sleep. Being tired and fatigued is nothing new to me and something I have experienced most all of my adult life.

Progressively Smaller Writing
When I write things out by hand in script, my writing gets progressively smaller as I continue to write. This symptom rarely occurs when I print (which I do frequently in my work). However, I have always had this problem and remember noticing it all the way back in junior high school. This is nothing new to me.

I believe that I have noticed an increase in drooling at times. I do a lot of talking in my work and this symptom may simply be the result of my using my mouth and throat so much. I also notice the drooling upon waking from sleep. I am really not sure about this symptom and cannot correlate it with any other symptom that I perceive.

Involuntary Muscle Motion
In addition to the tremors, I have noticed some involuntary muscle movement under the skin in my right arm and fingers.

Difficulty Walking
Difficulty Getting Into/Out Of Bed
Difficulty Getting Into/Out Of Chairs
Difficulty Turning In Bed
I have had no such difficulties except those that take into account the old leg and hip injury on my right side.

I have had absolutely no problems here I teach students in corporations about the use of computers using UNIX, C, C++, Perl, Shell, the Internet, HTML, Java, and such and have not had any problems performing my job.

Changing Speech
There has been no change in my speech patterns at all.
Slowness Of Movement
I have not noticed any slowness of movement at all except as precipitated by the previously mentioned leg injury. As a matter of fact, anything that doesn't require planning or precision (like talking), I tend to do fast. It is, at times, quite a chore to slow myself down.

Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts about one of the more popular medications used in the treatment of Parkinson's symptoms: Sinemet.

[Some pills]
  • In all of my reading on Parkinson's, Sinemet is the drug of choice to reduce the visible symptoms. But, in my application of the drug, I have never noticed any reduction in symptoms.
  • Administration of Sinemet is usually put off until late in the disease cycle because it has a short useful lifetime. Why did all three of the doctors prescribes this drug immediately?
  • The useful lifetime of the drug Sinemet is supposed to be about four years. If (a big if) the drug had relieved any of my symptoms (and I just failed to notice), why isn't it doing more after two years of usage?
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