Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Downside

One of the things I’ve been telling myself about Parkinson’s disease is that at this point, it’s just cosmetic. My right hand performs the classic “pill-rolling” spasm when I walk, or sometimes wiggles uncontrollably when I’m relaxed, but otherwise, there’s no impact on my life. I’m not stupid – I know that eventually, simple tasks may become difficult, or I may be unable to work. But for now, there’s no reason to try and control the symptoms except for the sake of my own vanity.

Sure, I’ll have to stop certain activities as the symptoms worsen. For example, I’ve already stopped eating soup in restaurants, because by the time the spoon gets to my mouth, there’s often nothing in it. It’s a shame, because I love New England clam chowder. Maybe I can train myself to use cutlery with my left hand without appearing as though I was raised by wolves.

So until recently, I’ve been brushing it off, acting as though there’s no real problem; it’s no worse than a birthmark on my face. Until I got a haircut.

There was no way to see it coming. You walk in, sit down, and someone else does all the work. How could Parkinson’s disease possibly have a negative impact on this experience?

I drove to my local Great Clips, and was surprised when I was greeted by a young gay man who I’ll call Lyle. Usually, the staff at Great Clips are exclusively female. Lyle was friendly and professional, as he seated me in the chair and covered me with the smock. He made pleasant conversation as he moved around me, snipping and combing.

Suddenly, I realized that my right hand, which was sitting in my lap, had begun its uncontrollable wiggle. The smock covered my lap, but it was painfully obvious that something was going on there. I tried grasping my right hand with my left, but that only seemed to stimulate the shaking, which becomes worse when I’m nervous or agitated.

Lyle must have noticed. Perhaps he was flattered, although if I was in his position, I’d be pretty horrified.