Oct 27, 2014

"A friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself" Jim Morrison

I am blessed to have many people in my life who love & support me.  People who not only give me that freedom to, but want me to be myself!  People who are genuine, kind and love me.  The reality is that we only have one life to live and we should not do it on someone else's terms.  Having Parkinson's has changed who I am in some ways but I think it's mainly reinforced my true self.  Everyone deals with life's obstacles differently and there is no wrong way as long as you are being yourself.  If someone expects you to be someone that you are not, then one has to ask why?  No matter what answers you may come up with at the end of the day they are not true and supportive friends to you.  Because a real friend loves & supports you just the way you are without expectations for you to change. 

The world is blessed with so many personalities and thank God for that, because if we were all the same things would get pretty boring.  There are outgoing people, introverts, those that are often comic relief, the quiet ones that take it all in.  Some people are private and others not so much.  But no matter what every person is unique in their own way and that's what makes them beautiful.  I believe that we should all be allowed to shine in whatever way we are most comfortable and we all have something to offer the world but we can only do so if we are being true to our own self.  I choose to live my life very openly.  I have always been an open book, some people really seem to hate that, which is fine by me because it's not up to them how I live my life. 

We could all learn something from Dr. Seuss, I personally think he's very wise! 

The reality is that if people don't like or appreciate the way you are, it doesn't matter.  If they choose to pick apart or judge others constantly then they must be unhappy with their own lives.  It's nothing that you should even waste a single thought on.  Because people who are kind and genuine and happy in their own skin do not gossip or criticize the way others live their life.  They appreciate everyone's place in this world and they ignore things they may not like rather than tear those things apart.  If you are experiencing a struggle in life of any kind I assure you, it will be a wake up call for the type of person you want to be and the types of people you want to surround yourself with.  Parkinson's has taught me to live in the moment and to surround myself with positive people who are not mean or cruel to others just because they may not be the same personality or opinions.  It has taught me that sometimes people are simply unkind and that is ok because it's their issue to deal with not yours.  It's taught me that most people are loving, caring beautiful people in this world who truly want to live a life of positivity regardless of what is thrown their way.  I am ever so grateful for these lessons and sometimes simple reminders.  I am also very grateful for the beautiful people it has brought back into my life and the new people who I've crossed paths with because of it.  I am grateful for a husband who knows I am an open book, supports that and is happy I'm that personality.  He loves that I am who I am and I am lucky to have him!

I think we all have a purpose in this life and sometimes it goes in an entirely different direction than where we thought it was suppose to.  I genuinely love others and love to help out when someone is in need.  I've taken some flack for that over the years, some judgement on my motives for helping others and even some negative feedback about my blog.  But at the end of the day I know my own truth and I know that I am sincere and I care and I truly want to help others whenever I can because I think that's the way the world should work.  I think it is part of my purpose for being here and it's a way of life I want my children to grow up knowing.

Now that I am dealing with PD I do not think that has changed, however I do think it looks a little different.  I can't often help in a physical way like I might always want to but I can still help others.  Parkinson's is a BIG deal.  It's not getting the flu, or breaking a leg or something that will go away with time.  It is a degenerative disease that will be a life long battle for not only myself but for my family to deal with.  And well, it sucks.  It's scary and it sucks.  BUT I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.  And if having YOPD is the card I have been dealt with than it must be for a reason.  I am suppose to do something with this.  When I first started reading up on PD there is very little information out there for the young onset patients.  It is primarily an older person's disease and therefore the majority of information, supports and so on are targeted to that demographic.  I started to write this blog for my own form of therapy as it helped get things off my chest in a positive manner.  When I started to share it which was months later it in turn connected me with other young onset patients, which was fantastic!  I was able to communicate with other people with similar struggles in similar times in their lives and that can be very beneficial.  I also received a tremendous outpouring of support and let me tell you that is a huge weight lifting feeling from this journey.  I was touched by many who said that my writing helped them in their own struggles, some PD related others not and that has been heartwarming.  I was contacted by various organizations on how I might be able to assist other people struggling with Young Onset PD and that was mind blowing to me and incredible at the same time.  How could I help them?  I don't yet know the answer to that.  However one thing I know for sure is that I have this scary degenerative disease for a reason and as time goes on those reasons I think are presenting themselves to me.  I think part of the reason may be that this is to be the new way I can try and help others.  And if one person feels like they are not alone in this journey because of it then it has served it's purpose.  If one other person with Parkinson's that's struggling to maintain their balance reads about equine therapy from this blog and tries it and has success with it, then it has served it's purpose.  If it makes one other young parent with PD feel like their are not alone and that someone else knows what they are going through than it has served it's purpose.

One thing is for certain.  I am an open book, I always have been and I always will be.  I will not change who I am for anyone and I will not let PD change me either.  I will continue to pour out my heart and soul for nobody's purpose other than my own and if it helps someone along the way I think that's fantastic.  And if it doesn't or someone doesn't like it than that's ok too.  Nobody has a gun to their head telling them they have to continue to read it!  Because I write this blog for three reasons:
1.  To continue to get things off my chest in a constructive manner
2.  To avoid assumptions by others about my own health, because I am telling it like it is
3.  To perhaps touch or help one other person out there that may be having a similar struggle
(If there were a fourth, it would be to provide the folks that love to gossip something new to talk about!  Ha! Ha!  Your welcome!)

Thankfully because of this blog I have had many positive people become closer friends.  Many people be more true and honest with me about themselves.  Learned more about myself and most importantly I have been touched by the lives of others who are fighting various battles.  One which must be mentioned is Cindy, who as I wrote about previously I had the great pleasure to meet when I was in Calgary.  She is an inspiring, beautiful, courageous woman fighting breast cancer with dignity and strength.  She inspires me to fight harder, to stay positive and to cherish the loved ones in my life.  If you are ever in need of feeling any of those emotions I urge you to read her blog.  It can be found here:  http://warriorcindo.blogspot.ca/

She is amazing!  I am lucky to have met her and she's more beautiful and more wonderful in person!

My goal in this life is to be a good wife, a loving mother, a kind hearted person that always tries to put others first and help where I am able and most importantly to be ME.  All of those things are what make me happy and when I stop being any one of those things I cannot feel fulfilled in this life because I am not being the person I set out to be and therefore I will live a very unhappy life.  Having Parkinson's Disease changes a lot of things but it does not change any of those things that are important to me as I go through this life, my life.  I urge you that if for any reason you are not being real, not being true to yourself or constantly worrying about what other people think, stop!  Don't let anyone, anything, any disease, any challenge or obstacle this life may throw at you take away who you are or what you believe in.  Because nobody else can love you if you cannot love yourself first. 

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothings going to get better, it's not!" 
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"
"Today you are you, that's truer than true. 
There is no one alive who is youer than you!"
"You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes,
you can steer yourself in any direction you choose"

~Dr. Seuss~

Oct 19, 2014

'Screw you Parkinson's' cause I just ran my first 5K race!!!

Today was 16 months from when I got sick (although in hindsight years since my first PD symptoms began), 6 months since I first heard the scary words 'Parkinson's Disease', 5 months since I started PD treatment and 1 month to the day from when I was officially diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease.... AND...  I just ran my first 5 km race in the PEI Marathon this morning!!!  Not only did I run a 5K but I did it in 36:55 which was 7:05 faster than my goal!  I did it while wearing a custom made shirt by the amazing people at COWS Inc. where I was working before I got sick that said my motto "Screw You Parkinson's"!
I can honestly say that aside from my kids being born this was my next greatest accomplishment!  That might sound like I'm making too big of a deal out of it not like I ran a marathon or even a half, but for me, for this body of mine, for the struggles I deal with daily this was HUGE.  I am beyond proud of myself for it.  It was the hardest thing I've ever done and it was by no means easy, but I did it & it was incredible! 
I had 3 amazing women run with me today, all of which have been or currently are runners and likely could have done this easier and faster but chose to stick by my side and encourage me to keep going when I thought I was done.  Words would never be able to express just how grateful I am for that, how much it helped me and what it meant to me.  One of my best friends Lorena has been and is by far one of my biggest supporters in more ways than one and one of my biggest cheerleaders too.  She encouraged me to register for this race and had complete faith and confidence in my ability to pull it off even when I doubted myself.  She is amazing and I am so lucky to have her in my life!

 She even made sure she had the same shirt made for today to run by my side!
There were also two other ladies, Aliceann & Dawn who are dear friends to her and before today acquaintances of mine who chose to run with us.  They did not have to, but they did, wanted to and I am in awe that they were there for me.  This journey of mine keeps giving me so many unexpected surprises and beautiful gifts like this one, gifts I would have never had the pleasure of receiving if it weren't for Parkinson's.  So despite the struggles there are many wonderful things presenting in my life because of it and one has to feel a sense of gratitude for them even if it means I have PD.  In a strange way I'm thankful for it because it's blessed me in many ways already.

So grateful for these 3 ladies!
Today's experience was extremely emotional for me aside from how physically challenging it was.  I was a basket of nerves every time I thought of it this week.  Not because I didn't think I'd finish, I knew I would finish even if it meant walking the entire 5K.  But scary because I didn't know how my body would respond.  After all the 2.5k mark is usually where my body starts to give in.  3.2K was the farthest I'd ever run (at the Parkinson's SuperWalk).  So getting to the 5 kilometer mark was terrifying to me.  I had countless messages leading up to this morning by text, facebook posts, emails from so many people with words of encouragement and support.  Beautiful things said that made me feel special and in awe that so many people had so much confidence in me when I didn't necessarily have it myself.  To all of you that took the time to tell me those things, please know you were a HUGE part of today.  I held onto those words and used them to keep going.  I am so grateful for all the caring cheerleaders I have both near and far and it truly does mean the world to me.   When I woke this morning I felt nervous but was thankful as I had gotten some sleep last night which doesn't always happen.  I was stiff and shaky which I am always worse first thing in the morning until my meds kick in.  I held off as long as I possibly could before taking them because I knew if I didn't they would be wearing off by the time I was due to run, or half way through.  Once it was getting close to 8am I took it knowing my first dose usually takes the longest to work (45 minutes to an hour average).  When I met up with the girls and we got to where the Marathon was starting I thought I was going to puke!  But then about 10 minutes before the start they kicked in and my body started to feel a bit better and the shaking eased.  I suddenly looked around to literally hundreds and hundreds of people with different colored bibs ready to run.  5K, 10K & half marathoners (those people amaze me).  The full marathon runners started at a different location.  Well seeing the crowd was just like everyone said, exhilarating!  So when the time came I was pumped and ready to go!
The first couple km's went well.  I tried to do my usual run a km and then walk a minute as I know my body can't do the full amount running.  After the first km I realized I had done it faster than I typically do, no doubt from the excitement of all the runners around me.  But it also worried me a bit that I started too fast.  But I kept on, the girls stopping to walk when I did telling me I was doing great and encouraging me.  By the time I hit 3.5K I was most definitely running out of steam.  I had already gone farther running than I had ever done before and the thought of another 1.5K was terrifying to me.  When 4 hit I had both a sense of excitement that I was almost done but fear because I was now shaking like a mad woman and was struggling.  The girls were wonderful, that last K I had to stop several times for a little walk or I knew I wasn't going to make it.  They kept encouraging me telling me we were ahead of schedule that I was doing great and their words were heartwarming for me and gave me the push I needed.  When we finally hit the corner of University Avenue and took the turn, you could see all the spectators, hear the cheering AND most importantly see the finish line.  Tears started to stream down my face as Lorena said "See it, it's right there".  Then they all said to me "Don't cry yet!!!".  So I shook my head wiped the tears and made myself stop.  Coming into the finish line was a bit of a blurr, I remember looking for Aaron & the girls but at the same time not really seeing anything.  I did catch them right near the finish and apparently there were some other supporters there I didn't even notice.  As I crossed the finish line they put the medal around my neck and I bent over exhausted and excited and in awe all at once.  I did it!  'Screw You Parkinson's, cause I just did it!!!'

 A sea of runners!
Incredible thing to be a part of!
I then was greeted with congratulations by my girls and their signs with kisses from them and my amazing husband who sticks with me no matter what and hugs from my biggest cheerleader since I can remember, my sister!  As well as my friend Donelda & Lorena's parents & kids.  Another huge cheerleader of mine Angie & her sweet girl Abigail where there with a big sign for me too, but in the excitement I didn't see them.  But the whole experience, well, It was Incredible!  Holy crap I just ran 5K in what I knew was faster than my 44 minute goal but still had to wait for the official time and I did it despite my screwed up body!!!  Wooohooooo!!!


As we ventured off into the tent where there were some snacks to refuel, I tried to grab a piece of banana.  Shaking so badly I couldn't unpeel it, so Lorena did it for me.  Then when I went to grab it I couldn't and had to use my left hand.  The poor volunteer behind the table looked at me very concerned and said "Are you ok dear, do you need to sit?" to which I didn't even have time to answer cause Lorena promptly said to her "She's fine, read her shirt"  Ha! Ha!  Took the lady a second and I think another volunteer actually said into her ear 'she has Parkinsons'.  It made me laugh, particularly at Lorena's quick response and pride in what I'd just done!  Another volunteer spotted the tattoo's on my back, the portraits of my girls when they were each 6 months old, took a picture of them and one of my shirt!  It was awesome!  Then the results came in..... Oh the anticipation.... Lorena and I went to the wall to search for our numbers and there was my name.... Natasha McCarthy #4081, Mount Albion..... 36:55!!!  WOW... Lorena gave me a giant and loud high five, then hugged me and said "didn't I tell you, you could do it?" and then I cried, again....
So very exciting!  It was by far one of the best days I've ever had.  Not one of the easiest but one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever done.  I am so grateful now that when January of 2014 hit I forced myself to stop feeling sorry for myself and lazing around scared about what was wrong with me and got off my ass and started moving again.  That I was determined to lose that 25 pounds I gained and keep my legs from getting as bad as my upper body, particularly right arm had become.  Since then I have been determined to not get worse.  Since first hearing those words Parkinson's I decided I would do what I needed to do to fight this.  And that's what I've been doing.  I've had to give up a lot of things in order to stay active and continue to be the best Mom I can be to my girls, but it's helping me not get worse.  Since I was officially told I had PD I have vowed that since regular exercise is the ONLY thing in my control to try and slow progression of this disease since there are no treatments yet for it that this is what I have to and will do.  I will not let it get me without a fight and I will not give up.  I will stay strong as long as I possibly can and do what I need to do to slow it from getting worse.  And because of so many supporters and encouragement from friends & family I am able to do this....
Today was AWESOME!
"Screw you Parkinson's, cause I just ran my FIRST 5K"!!!

Oct 12, 2014

'Accept your past without regrets, handle your present with confidence & face your future without fear'

Today I turn 37 years old!  It's funny how when we are in our teens and even in our young twenties we think late 30's and 40's are so dreadfully old!  Then when we hit that place ourselves we feel a whole lot differently.  We have assumptions about where in our life we will be at a certain age and what we'll be like.  We have a vision for what life is to look like at certain stages.  When we hit that point in time in our life and it doesn't appear the way we had envisioned we look at ourselves and wonder why?  Is it different for good reasons or perhaps frustrating ones?  Is it better than we hoped for or worse?  Well I can say that like most I had a thought of where I'd be around this time in my life and it certainly was not to be a 37 year old mother of two beautiful girls and dealing with Parkinson's Disease.  That's an 'old person' disease and I am not old.  Although I have to admit I have days where I feel like I'm 37 and I'm trapped in the body of a 90 year old.  Those days are frustrating to say the least.

I saw my family Doctor a couple weeks ago.  We were speaking about my now confirmed YOPD diagnosis and how my 'on' periods with my meds aren't lasting long enough for me to go back to my career.  I admitted to him that I was struggling with that, mourning that PD has taken so much from me and how I was meant to work.  I adore and love my children beyond what words could express but I had never envisioned being a stay at home mother.  And I have days when the school bus pulls up and the fighting starts and I want to pull my hair out.  Days where my husband will Facetime us from his work in Alberta where I'm ready to scream.  I think perhaps had I 'chosen' to be a stay at home Mom it would be a lot different, but this was forced on me.  I enjoy my time with them immensely and I know how terrible that must sound to some.  But it just wasn't the way I 'planned' it all out.  I'm suppose to be 37, thriving in my career that I've worked so hard for over the years, loving being a dance mom and my 3 day weekends with my girls (I worked 4 days a week) and life was pretty much suppose to be perfect.  Parkinson's is not part of the perfect plan.

But with all that said, things could always be worse.  I have been touched by so many beautiful people struggling far more than I am.  This journey has brought people into my life that are fighting courageous battles that I admire their strength.  A beautiful woman named Cindy that has crossed my path through the world of technology & blogs.  Virtually introduced to me by her cousin who lives in PEI.  She's a warrior Mom fighting breast cancer a year younger than I with small children as well.  I read her story and sometimes feel guilty of the down days I have.  After all I'm not having to endure any of the horrible obstacles she's faced with, life altering decisions and fear.  I have fear of my own and obstacles too but they are of a different variety.  So many out there fighting battles that they are losing and know that their time on this earth is being cut short.  Parkinson's was not part of the perfect plan, but I know I can do this, I know it's not what I want, but I know it could always be worse.  I may have struggles and bad days and yes over time I will get worse.  BUT I will be there for all the momentous occasions in my children's lives.  There to hold hands with my husband.  I am lucky!  I am blessed and I have much much joy in my life to be grateful for.  Parkinson's disease will not take that away from me because I won't allow it.  Parkinson's will not define who I am.  Parkinson's has and will continue to teach me lesson after lesson in this life.  Wonderful lessons that otherwise I may not have gotten to learn.  I am lucky in many ways.

So, as I celebrate my 37th birthday it isn't how I planned it all but that's ok.  I am lucky enough to be spending my birthday in Calgary with my best friend Colette who I love dearly and is one of my biggest supporters and I can't imagine life without her & her beautiful family, even though we live a country apart.  I woke up this morning to the beautiful mountain scenery of Bow Valley Provincial Park where we're camping & been enjoying morning coffee & evening wine.  Next week I am going to have the utmost pleasure of meeting that inspiring woman Cindy that I spoke of above and I cannot wait to hug her.  I feel as though she's been a friend forever and I've never even laid eyes on her.  I will spend most of next week making beautiful memories with my sweet girls, my husband will be meeting us here to come home with us for a couple of weeks and all around it's a fabulous way to become 37!  There is much joy to be had as I start my 37th year of life even though I'm in a place I never would have planned for!
How can you not find joy when this is where you wake up on your birthday?