Personal Stories

I Can’t Walk, but I Can Dance?

I Can’t Walk, but I Can Dance?

Monica McIntyre
Huntington Beach, CA

It’s very much like people who stutter and can’t talk fluidly, but they can sing.  How can that be?  I’ve wondered the same thing ever since starting a beginning ballroom dance class for people challenged with the “Parkinson’s Experience”.   I’d heard about the class through our PD support group that it was fun.  Four weeks ago, cane in hand, I arrived for my first class. 

Four years ago, on my 53rd birthday, a movement disorder neurologist diagnosed me with PD.  What did it mean?  How would this affect my work as a pilot?  My symptoms were mild.  I had right hand tremor and a draggy right foot.   I immediately stopped flying and retired 6 months later.  I was sad but not depressed until maybe three years later when freezing and balance challenges started.   Then I really had some anxiety issues about driving places although I was still a good safe driver.  Meal time is somewhat impacted.   I favor easy prepped meals now that it requires so much more effort and time to do everything. I’m not depressed anymore because finally I accepted that instead of moving at 98 RPMs, I’m going to be at 33 1/3 for the remainder of time.  My new nickname for myself is sloth girl. 

I find that my strategies for non-medicated symptom management constantly change. 
 PD symptoms to me are a series of mini-mountains that I try to figure out how to hike around. 

“Oh Lord, don't move the mountain. Teach me how to climb
Oh Lord do not remove my stumbling blocks, but teach me to go around….”

If That Mountain Don’t Move by Gerald Crabb

My strategies for being happy and hopeful with symptom control is a relaxed attitude toward keeping me excited about new ways of moving.  I enjoy easy yoga stretches, elliptical machine to music, recumbent bicycling to music, playing the harmonica (tremors equal wonderful built in vibrato), upper body  light weight lifting, tossing a tennis ball, walking my dog, to name a few.   There are many times daily that my body says no to exercise, and that’s when I have to say to myself, if you  want to play, you’ve got to pay.  Which brings me back to dancing as my newest hopeful tool for symptom relief.

So I’ve arrived for class and I’m nervous as heck…I dump my cane and wobble up to the dance floor.  OMG, it involves backward steps.  By the end of our one and one half hour class I’m doing the Tango.   We’re ALL doing the Tango!  I want more!   I did not bring a cane to the fourth class.  I can waltz now.  Well sort of.  I practice waltzing in my kitchen from the counter to the refrigerator.  Wonder if I can waltz to the mailbox?


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