Dancing in the Rain: Lessons Learned on my Personal Journey with PD (more at www.PDPlan4Life.com) Copyright 2013-16 Sheryl Jedlinski
By Sheryl Jedlinski
I recently ventured outside of my comfort zone and returned to the gym after a year-long hiatus following cancer surgery and chemotherapy. Prior to that, I had been a “regular” at the gym for 15 years, positioning myself to live well longer with Parkinson’s disease. It was time to return to that focus as exercise is believed to be the only effective treatment for PD.
The biggest hurdle to my making a comeback was overcoming my fear of falling, and with good reason, I might add. Studies reveal that this fear is a better predictor of health- related quality of life than actual falling. I was determined not to let the fear of falling keep me from being active. I knew from my own experiences that the less we do, the less able we become. We have difficulty moving, and our gait and balance deteriorates, transforming our fear of falling into a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading us to a downward spiral in the areas of health and happiness.
Those of us living with PD are twice as likely to fall as our peers; and once we have had our first fall, we’re at increased risk of falling again, and sustaining injuries that leave us less mobile, more socially isolated, and with a diminished quality of life.
My risk of falling was greater yet because of the residual effects of the chemotherapy drugs I had recently finished. These same powerful drugs that crushed my cancer and gave me my life back next unleashed neuropathy, which causesd numbness, worsening of balance, tingling, pain and cramping in my feet and lower legs, making it difficult to stand or walk for long periods.
Fearing that I was only one fall away from serious injury, I returned to the gym to learn how to compensate for the loss of feeling in my feet. Working with a personal trainer, I focus on exercises that challenge and improve balance during movement, increase flexibility, and correct gait to help maintain the postural stability and mobility needed to prevent falls.
My trainer, Sue assured me that only one client ever got away from her, and he was six-feet, six inches tall. She broke his fall, but couldn’t hold on to him. To avoid another such incident she has me wear a gait belt around my waist. This gives her something to grab onto should she need to support and steady me if I stumble while walking, or transferring from a sitting to a standing position. Sue tugged on my belt twice during my first session, and in each case I was already recovering on my own. The exercises we practiced to improve my coordination and balance and reduce my risk for falls are working.