I have never begun a piece of writing with such misgivings. (Yes, that's basically the opening line from Somerset Maugham's "The Razor's Edge," but it applies here.)
A year ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. So far, the impact has been slight -- a stiff shoulder and a shaky hand. After years of making a living at a keyboard, I now find it bothersome to type with my right hand, and that, probably as much as anything, has kept me from writing more in this space -- or anywhere else, for that matter.
I've never been comfortable with columns about personal matters. Sure, I'm as egotistical as any journalist, but that need to tell my story doesn't really extend to those little intimate confessionals that mark so many of the newspaper columns that have grown so popular over the past 25 years.
Still, at least three people have convinced me that writing about this unfortunate, progressive disease might prove to be a worthwhile venture, if only as a way to document the disease as it worsens and takes hold. Jesus, I hope it doesn't, but you've got to face reality.
Two things seem to relieve the symptoms: working out and taking a drink. Fortunately, I like both. I'm on one medication, a drug called Azilect, which my doctor says has shown to slow the disease -- in one study, that is. Other studies haven't proved the effectiveness.
Azilect is lightweight stuff, or so one of my best friends says. My unfortunate pal is deep into the disease, and it's complicated by dementia, which occasionally accompanies Parkinson's. Of course I assumed upon receiving the diagnosis that I was headed to that sort of cloudy future, but my doc has urged me not to compare myself to any other patient. "Don't go there," he said.
Easier said than done. Still, there are scores of diseases that are worse than what I have and there are any number of people suffering far worse. Let's keep perspective. Complaining doesn't make much sense. You can go nuts worrying about the worst that can happen, or you can put it out of your mind. Linus of "Peanuts" fame said it best: "No problem is so big or so complicated that you can't run away from it."
That's the way I feel. That's why I'm reluctant to write about it. But because no one can tell me what the future holds, documenting the whole thing might be worthwhile.