I’ve never written a post about the day I received my diagnosis. Perhaps though, that may be because I had a reaction that many people wouldn’t have had. On March 10, 2011 I had an appointment at UCSF’s Parnassus campus with a doctor named Chad, and I am eternally grateful to him and to my neurologist Sarah. Doctor Sarah pulled the strings for my appointment at UCSF, and brought in a man who within one half hour visit did what no one else could do for five years.
I’ll never forget that appointment.
I arrived at the neurology department anxious and yet somewhat hopeful. Doctor Sarah called me into the little room where I sat and talked with her briefly about the new symptoms that I was experiencing and then she excused herself to go tell the doctor with whom I was meeting that I was ready. She had left the door to the exam room open and I sat in a chair by the door eagerly awaiting this mystery man.
Within minutes I heard them talking in the corridor, and the words that I heard I can still hear as though they were spoken this very afternoon.
‘Tell me more about this patient.’ I heard a man say as the two approached slowly.
‘No. I want you to see this young woman with a fresh pair of eyes. She’s been seeing doctors for five years and hasn’t been able to get a diagnosis to fit all of her symptoms.’ My heart stopped for a moment when I heard Doctor Sarah say these words. I was suddenly filled with a newfound hope that I hadn’t known in quite a long time.
‘Ok.’ The male doctor said. The two came in and the man introduced himself to me as Doctor Christine. (Dr. Chad Christine that is.) I sat in my chair and performed the tests that by now I had down pat. He told me to stand and walk into the hallway and walk down a long corridor and then walk back. I did and was ushered to a table where I sat and was asked to lay back. Doing so I suddenly felt exposed, not in the sense that I was showing any parts of my body per say but because I could feel my symptoms. The tremor was, by this point in time, nearly unbearable.
He continued to perform examinations, and then a few minutes later he told me to sit on the edge of the table and performed two more tests. Then, pulling his rolling stool a little closer he took my hands in his and looked into my eyes and spoke words that I’d, in a sense, been waiting for what seemed like an eternity to hear.
‘It’s very rare for someone your age to have this, but I think that you have Early Onset Parkinson’s disease.’ I was rendered speechless, and managed to say simply, ‘Ok.’
We talked for a few more moments before he stood and consulted with Doctor Sarah about the proper prescription for me, and then, after saying good-bye, he left.
Doctor Sarah turned and gave me a look that was slightly concerned.
‘Are you okay with the diagnosis?’
‘Yeah.’ I said with a touch of a smile. ‘I’m actually relieved to finally have a name for what I’ve been going through.’
After talking about the prescription that I would be picking up she and I parted. I promptly called my grandma and asked her if she could take an early lunch break.
We met at Mount Zion Hospital and sat in the cafeteria where she read to me the textbook definition of Parkinson’s disease from a medical book she keeps in her office. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had the literal definition of the disease. How could it be? How could so many doctors have missed it? How could they have let me go for so long without telling me that there was a possibility that I had such a thing? Then it dawned on me… I was 26. Perhaps, because I was so young they were hesitant to diagnose someone with such a life altering thing.
Fast forward to the present day.
I recently downloaded a song from iTunes that I harken to my life after my diagnosis. The song is called, Blackbird and a portion of the lyrics are so parallel to the way that I feel even now.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
… and the journey continues.