Gene Rankey

Paola, Kansas

I was diagnosed in 2022, but looking back, I displayed symptoms more than a decade prior: I switched using the mouse with my right (dominant) hand to my left hand because it felt wonky. I had a persistent face rash. My right arm didn’t swing right when running. I developed a poor sense of smell. After a series of MRI, CT scans, and PT sessions to assess what was wrong with my right shoulder (that I had dislocated and fractured in years past), my doctor figured out there was something else driving my “curious constellation of symptoms.” My girlfriend (who is always right) suggested I visit a neurologist, who confirmed what I had suspected from consulting with Dr. Google.

For nearly two years, I did not disclose my diagnosis to more than a handful of people. Since then, I have expanded my Parkinson’s network on social media, and I find the Parkinson’s community—fellow Parkies, care givers, advocates, healthcare folks—to be an amazing group of strong, welcoming individuals.

Learning to live well with Parkinson’s has been a journey, as the disease I am trying to learn about is always changing its expression. Living well is a process, not a state, in response to a progressive, debilitating disease. I take every new day on its own terms and endeavor to draw out some good from the experience.

I am an optimist. Although Parkinson’s is a tough diagnosis and a brutal disease, it brings many blessings. Personally, it has facilitated a focus on enjoying life’s little joys and the small things that really matter. It reminds me of my mortality and receiving every dawn as a gift and making each day matter. I have met some great people! In this sense, “living well” means thinking, speaking, and acting in a deliberate manner that provides personal meaning. I am always reminded of the immortal words of my trainer, when he wanted us to push on beyond what we thought we could do, beyond our perceived limits: “Embrace the suck!” In doing so, I: Control my attitude. Choose to persevere. Grow in toughness. Exceed expectations. Make it a routine.

I am looking forward to meeting other people in the Parkinson’s community, fellow travelers on the journey of life with similar challenges and contributing to their living well. Together, we are stronger.

Euphoria = any gravel road in my Asics; otherwise, I wear flip flops (unless the snow is deeper than three inches). I work out daily and play soccer one day a week in the local adult soccer league. My favorite hot spots are Canyonlands in Utah, Aranuka Atoll in Kiribati, and Crooked Island and Grand Cay in the Bahamas: places travelers visit, not tourists. I am blessed with four special kids, an understanding girlfriend, and family. I enjoy photography, coffee, hard pillows, John Lee Hooker, George Strait, Lawrence Welk. The Bible. Robert Lewis Stevenson. Casablanca. Noir, and not just Pinot. Waves and tides. Sand. I’ve always liked fruitcakes. And iconoclasts. I have been accused of being a cynophilist (no, it’s not illegal).

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