Parkinson’s Disease, a neurodegenerative disease, is often characterized by a variety of changes that can affect everyday life.
With symptoms ranging from tremors, difficulty with balance, and slowing of activities, Parkinson’s can threaten to alter the quality of life of almost 100,000 Canadians living with the disease. However, for one Kingston family, a Parkinson’s diagnosis has been met with a positive attitude – which has made all the difference.
Larry Livesey, diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005, has been proactive in managing the disease. Through the right medications, partaking in exercise classes, and maintaining an active and independent lifestyle, Larry is not allowing Parkinson’s stop him.
“The symptoms started when we were living on our boat in the Bahamas, actually,” said Larry. “We would be walking home in the dark and I said [to my wife], ‘I’m finding it difficult to keep my balance in the dark.’ I basically thought no more of it for a while.
However, after developing tremor, Larry went to the doctor and was diagnosed.
“We got involved with the Parkinson Society right after he was diagnosed because neither of us knew anything about the disease,” said Phyllis Livesey, who has been married to Larry for nearly 55 years. “We had no idea what it was, it had not been in either of our families. It was a shock, but we never considered it a life changing thing, but just something we had to deal with.”
“We realized that it was time to seize the day,” said Phyllis. “If we wanted to do something, it was better to do it sooner than later.”
In 2009, Larry and Phyllis Livesey headed to Italy, where Larry walked through Rome and Venice, and climbed the Tower of Pisa.
“It was a wonderful trip,” said Phyllis. “His disease didn’t stop him from doing anything and it hasn’t.”
Larry is quick to express how grateful he is that Parkinson’s has not progressed to the point that it has for others diagnosed around the same time as he was.
“I have been very fortunate that it’s been a very slow progression with me,” said Larry, who is focusing on all the things that he still can do. “I can still drive, walk fairly well, but balance is still a big thing with me. I have never fallen yet, though, and am in no hurry for that to happen.”
Phyllis notes how thankful she is for Larry’s “wonderful neurologist,” Dr. Stuart Reid at Kingston General Hospital. Larry has also been involved with an exercise program called Move Well offered to seniors at their apartment building. He faithfully attends three times weekly and works on balance and flexibility.
Larry has also been enjoying new activities since his diagnosis.
“I have joined a woodworking group at the senior’s centre here,” said Larry. “I have never done that kind of thing in my life before, except a wee bit in high school, but I never got into that. I am thoroughly enjoying it. One of my classmates said that it’s amazing to see me standing and shaking and then I pick up something [to work on] and my hands are calm. I find doing that has really helped me.”
For the Liveseys, positive thinking makes the difference.
“It can be a devastating disease if you let it be,” said Phyllis. “A lot of it is attitude.”
For local families affected by Parkinson’s, the Kingston chapter of the Parkinson Society offers support through monthly meetings, an exercise group, a support group for care partners and fundraising events, including the Superwalk in September, selling Christmas cakes in November and December, and selling tulips in April. Visit http://www.parkinson.ca to get involved or for more information.
By Mandee Winter/Kingston This Week