Painting with Parkinson's - Bronwyn's story
It started with a twitch in my finger. I thought it might be carpal tunnel and I tried not to think about it much. A few weeks later I was in the park with a friend and her father when I noticed his twitch. I knew he had Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Watching him that day I knew that’s what I had.
I made an appointment to see my GP and what followed was a raft of tests, ultrasounds and medical appointments. When I finally was given my diagnosis, I felt remarkably calm. I told everyone close to me straight away. So here I was, a 32-year-old mum with 6-month-old twins and a 3-year-old with early onset Parkinson’s. Doctors have a way of delivering news – it’s not always in the most positive way and yet they have so much power to set people on the right path in an encouraging way. They need more training in this area. I knew it was not a death sentence. I did no research at the time. I was not interested in doom and gloom predictions. I would just deal with the consequences when they arrived. I was determined to not put ideas in my head.
I am a naturally easy going, positive person and so I tried to see the positive in everything. I tried to avoid medication for as long as possible. But of course, over time having early onset Parkinson’s did change my outlook on life or maybe it just opened me up to trying new experiences. I joined a Tibetan Buddhist Group with my mother. This has had a huge positive impact on my psyche.
I have been open and honest in discussing my Parkinson’s with my daughters so they have a better understanding. We no longer wait to do things and I live more in the moment. I have always been an avid traveller and we have been lucky enough to visit some of my favourite places – Italy, India, Vietnam, Canada and the African bush.
ART has always been a big part of my life. I love painting, especially portraits using acrylics. When I am painting, I have no tremor, because PD affects subconscious movements through the resting tremor. Last year I rallied all my family and friends to help me make a huge chandelier for a family home in the African bushveld. The base of the chandelier is a circular frame, custom made in wrought iron. We then suspended hundreds of clay beads from the iron base. My family and friends helped me individually roll each bead. The final product was super heavy and it had to be installed by whole team of people!! See the visual evidence below of the chandelier.
I am a firm believer in the power of the mind and have been inspired by people like John Pepper. John believes he has reversed his Parkinson’s Disease to the point where he no longer requires medication. He advocates an approach which involves stress management, diet adjustment and exercise regime. Its fundamentally underpinned by the science of neuroplasticity, which is based on the theory that we can train and develop new pathways in our brains. John was diagnosed with PD in 1992 but for the last 15 years has been medication free and at the age of 82 years, he continues to travel abroad, delivering lectures and advocating for his approach to reversing Parkinson’s. You can follow John at Reverse Parkinson's .
Bronwyn has helped raise awareness of PD through her involvement in a project and book by the name of 'Its not Funny'. 'It's Not Funny' is about the quirky sides of all sorts of people living with Parkinson's Disease. It's also a quirky way to help shed some light on this little understood illness and to help fund research about it. In the video below, Bronwyn shares her perspective on life and living it to the full..
There are other things that have helped me along the way. I joined PD Warriors (as listed on myCareSpace) a few years ago. It’s an exercise philosophy developed by Melissa McConaghy. Melissa is a Specialist Neurological Physiotherapist who has been working with people with Parkinson’s disease for over 15 years. She is author of the book – The New Parkinson’s Treatment: Exercise is Medicine and is host of the podcast – PD Podcast. It was specifically designed for people with PD to provide an intense work-out while at the same time slowing the progress of the Parkinson’s.
Exercise is important and staying fit has helped me personally. It’s a strange thing PD, I find it easier to run than walk. I never used to run before my diagnosis but now I even run on the road!
I also got great support from others along the way such as Dr Stephen Tisch my neurologist from the St Vincent Hospital, Movement Disorder Clinic.
So, what does the future hold ? I know there are amazing medical developments like the a recent ultrasound treatment which targets specific areas in the brain, where there is early onset PD. I take each day at a time, live in the moment and try and get to my happy places as often as I can with those I love most!
To find more help on myCareSpace for Parkinsons: Parkinsons NSW