Exercise, Electrolytes, Emotions, and Energy

When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) seven years ago, I knew virtually nothing about PD. So I started reading about it. One of the first things I read was this article, which basically says that “acute bouts” of “chronic exercise” may delay the progression of PD. So, in addition to the full-fledged workout I was already doing each day, I made an effort to engage in mini-exercise sessions throughout the day. These included things like walking up and down the office stairwell during my lunch break, rotating back and forth on my office chair during conference calls, and even doing “The Bird” periodically throughout the day (if only for a few seconds at a time). Seven years later, I still take breaks to do The Bird (though not as frequently) but I also play tug-o-war with my Great Pyrenees, and sometimes I just hop around the house like a dern fool idjut. Whether all this chronic exercise has actually delayed the progression of my PD, I can’t say. On one hand, the disease has certainly progressed; on the other hand, I feel like I’m doing better than a lot of other seven-year Parkies.

What I can say is that the acute bouts of physical activity do tend to provide short-term relief from three of the most annoying PD symptoms: fatigue, depression, and anxiety. As I’ve said before, the combination of physical fatigue and depression/anxiety can lead to feeling like I can’t even move. But as counter-intuitive as it seems in the moment, if I force myself to get up and move around a bit, I quickly feel much better – both physically and emotionally. Yet it’s so easy to succumb to the fatigue and depression; many times I have found myself just moping around, lamenting my condition, completely forgetting that all I have to do is just GET UP.

Another approach that is sometimes surprisingly effective (and which I frequently forget) is the sports drink. I find that simply drinking some PowerAde (or even Mountain Dew) is often surprisingly effective at relieving both the fatigue and the depression/anxiety. I have read that hydration and electrolytes are important for minimizing Neurogenic Orthostatic Hypotension (dizziness from standing up too fast), but I don’t think I’ve read anything about electrolytes relating to the emotional effects of PD. In my case at least, it seems there may be a link.

Urinary Urgency

I formally start each day by turning on the local television news. I say “formally start” because quite often, I’ve already been awake for a few hours, lounging around, hoping to get back to sleep. But on January 4th, I actually managed to sleep until a little past 6 AM, so I turned on the news as soon as I got to the living room. The first thing I saw was coverage of a storm that had dumped several inches of snow in Boone, North Carolina.

As most of my readers already know, I have a young Great Pyrenees dog. Or horse. I’m going to have the vet run a DNS test to determine his actual species. This animal is named Bear, which just adds to the species confusion. Being a Great Pyrenees, his coat is VERY soft, fluffy, and thick. So it should come as no surprise that, almost from day one, he has demonstrated a preference for cold weather. But we don’t get much wintry weather here in the Charlotte metropolitan area. It had even occurred to me that Bear might go his whole life without experiencing more than just a dusting of snow. I therefore had long since decided to take Bear to the mountains at some point this winter, to make sure he gets to play in snow at least once. Thus, the morning news served as a call to action!

I knew that I wanted to be able to let Bear romp around unleashed, so I did some Googlin’ for dog parks in the area. I settled on one in the town of Beech Mountain, about a three-hour drive from home. I had never been to Beech Mountain, and it seems the GPS app on my phone had never been there either, as it was apparently making up the directions on the fly. I found myself on narrow, tortuous mountain roads that were littered with recently fallen tree branches, and water from the melting snow was streaming all over these roads. Knowing that all that water would likely turn to ice as the temperature fell, I decided before we had even arrived that we had to leave Beech Mountain before sunset.

OK, we arrived at the dog park, where the snow had drifted a little, so it was as much as a foot deep in a couple places. While he had fun playing with a 5-month old Huskie mix who was also experiencing his first snow, Bear didn’t seem impressed/enthused about the snow, but he didn’t dislike it either. He pretty much acted like it was the normal ground cover…which I suppose is what I should have expected from his breed. Once Bear seemed to have tired himself out, we headed for home, with plenty of daylight left.

At this point, my GPS app finally figured out where it was. The voyage home consisted almost entirely of actual (and dry) highways. It completely avoided all the little mountain roads that I had been concerned about. In fact, the drive was actually pretty boring…to the point where I was getting a bit sleepy. I had brought a few cans of Mountain Dew with me in case of this eventuality, so I started sucking down the green caffeine. I had probably consumed two twelve-ounce cans by the time we got to Morganton, and I felt like it would be smart to visit a toilet while passing through town. I stopped at the next gas station, but their one and only toilet was out of order. No problem, I thought, I’ll just drive a couple more blocks and find another urine-worthy establishment.

Then, when I had driven less than a block, it happened: Urinary Urgency (the Big Double-U) struck with lightning speed and at full force. In an instant, I went from feeling like I should probably go potty, to feeling as though Lake Ontario was trying to burst outta me. I clamped down as hard as I could, and for as long as I could. Unfortunately, the next few blocks were entirely residential, and traffic had become surprisingly heavy. Before I could find a place to go, I reached the point where I could hold it no longer. I tried to let just a little bit leak out, hoping to buy a little more time, but I found that the floodgate had only two positions: Open or Closed; there was no in-between. And once the floodgate was open, it would not close until the bladder was completely empty. So there I was, still two hours from home, my jeans and my driver seat absolutely sopping wet. And I learned something: heated seats should not be turned on while soaked with urine. The seat cushion started making a repeated clicking sound, and with each click, my butt received a mild electric jolt. So I turned that heat off in a hurry.

Now you may be saying to yourself, “But Cedric, why would a grown man publicly blog about peeing his pants?” And if you are talking to yourself…and calling yourself Cedric…then you may be in serious need of psychological help. Believe me! I call myself Cedric, and I am in serious need of psychological help. But seriously folks, this is a Parkinson’s / travel blog. Most people don’t know it, but urinary urgency (bladder control issues, incontinence, call it what you want) is one of the many potential effects of Parkinson’s Disease, and it most certainly makes travel more challenging.

The most obvious way to face this challenge is the good ol’ adult diaper. When I started experiencing urinary issues a few years ago, I went ahead and bought some adult diapers, but I only wear them on occasions when I feel there’s a good possibility of not being able to get to a toilet (such as on a flight). Thus far, I’ve never actually “used” one. This is largely due to mannitol. I have found that, for me, taking about a teaspoon of mannitol a few times a day prevents urinary issues. The problem is that mannitol is a fine white powder, and I’m concerned about what might happen if I get stopped by police when I’m traveling with a fine white powder. I don’t need to spend a night in jail while the cops try to determine whether I’m carryin’ cocaine or anthrax. Or flour to make pot brownies.

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again! The time when people say to themselves, “DAMMIT, I suck! What, O what can I do to make myself less sucky in the upcoming year?” So, in the spirit of the season, I hereby resolve that in 2022 I will:

Endeavor to become more Muppet-like.

Begin brushing my dog at least once a week.

Legally change my name to “Cedric D’Artagnan DAMMIT!”

Begin brushing my toilets at least once a week.

Learn a new language. Yes, I mean a NEW language – one that won’t exist until I start learning it.

Begin brushing my teeth at least once a week.

Meet someone named “Larry”.

Begin brushing my colon at least once a week.

Write a self-help book for the illiterate.

Lick people.

Become omnipresent.

The Creek

‘Tis a warm and windy Christmas day here in Charlotte. The kind of day that reminds me of “The Creek.” I use quotes because it wasn’t really a creek, but a simple drainage ditch whose “banks” had become forested over the years. Or what passes as “forested” by central Nebraska standards.

There was a fence running along the east edge of the narrow wooded strip we called “The Creek.” On the other side of this fence was a massive corn field. Like I said: Nebraska. I would walk with my dog, Skipper, along this fence until we reached “The Tree.” Actually, nobody called it “The Tree” but I feel like it needs a name for the purposes of this reminiscence. So I’ll call it Edna.

When we reached Edna, I would always unleash Skipper, and he would immediately vanish into the corn. I would climb Edna with a book in my hand, and spend my afternoon reading in a tree. Every ten or fifteen minutes, Skipper would emerge from the corn, checking to see whether it was time to go home or if his yard ape was still monkeying around in Edna.

I never understood why Skipper so thoroughly enjoyed running around the corn field. In retrospect, I wonder if he was just using the corn as cover, making me think he was playing in the field when he was actually just passing through the corn to get back into town. Maybe he was visiting some female dog(s), or robbing banks, or stealing cable so he could watch MTV.

In any case (except Roe Vs. Wade), I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Joyous Cedstice, or just a good week. Oh, yeah…and death to COVID-19.

Insomnia: The Final Word (for now)

I spoke with my Parkinson’s specialist about the possibility of prescription sleep aids. He prescribed Trazodone, telling me to take one (50 mg) pill at bedtime; if after a week this did not produce the desired results, I was to increase to two pills each night. Well, the initial dosage didn’t help, so I went ahead and doubled it as directed. Over the course of ten nights at this dosage (100 mg), I got at least five hours of sleep each night, which is a definite improvement. On five of those ten nights, I slept at least six hours!

In the meantime, a couple of my fellow Parkinson’s patients told me that sleeping under a weighted blanket had helped with their insomnia. So I got one and tried it out. I kind of like the feel of it, and it’s definitely warm, but it did nothing in regard to my insomnia. So it looks like the solution to my problem (for now) is Trazodone.

Merry Christmas, folks!