In this special Moments of Victory® post, Catherine Strisik talks about life with her husband, Larry Schreiber, and how they lived well with Parkinson’s up until his death in early 2016.
What was your journey like once Larry was diagnosed?
As the wife of Larry Schreiber, and as a writer, I immediately began writing down everything that was happening with Larry. From the moment of diagnosis, I began taking notes, and entered into a state of high alert, it seemed, always. I wrote down his symptoms, their changes, the progression, his moods, the doses of medications he was taking, their benefits and their complications. We spoke of the future, and the children, and the what ifs, and the broken dreams, our fears, and our patient and not so patient love as Parkinson’s progressed. We shared this journey together and held each other emotionally every step we took. They were fast and fun at times, slow and angered at other times, and always with the goal of acceptance.
During those years my poetry life changed its course, and from this experience with Parkinson’s, and from our love and deep respect for each other, I was able to write my second poetry collection, The Mistress. My book went on to be awarded the New Mexico Book Award for Poetry in 2017. What made this moment particularly poignant, was that Larry had read the entire manuscript many times as it developed, and he agreed that yes, Parkinson’s was indeed like a mistress in how she was stealing him away from me, from our marriage. He had also seen the striking glass sculpture image for the book cover. Though he didn’t live long enough to see the book published, he was with me every step of my journey as I wrote it and then released it out into the world.
How did you and Larry live well each day?
My husband, Larry Schreiber was a remarkable loving man who was driven intellectually, professionally and physically. As a physician he knew what he was in for from the moment he was diagnosed; therefore, he began researching how to live well with Parkinson’s and acted on it from day one.
He challenged himself daily. Early on while he was still practicing medicine, he awoke early each morning and climbed a ridge in the valley we lived in and then would head to a full day of work helping others. And then he’d come home and insist that we go on a hike together!
In the seven years Larry lived with Parkinson’s, he attended movement disorder and voice classes, boxing sessions and tai chi classes. He skied Taos Mountain, hiked every trail in Taos Valley and in the Taos mountains and summited Mt. Kilimanjaro four years after his diagnosis. Just two days before his massive stroke, we’d snowshoed in fresh snow in his beloved San Cristobal.
Larry lived well. And because he lived well, I, too, was able to continue creating as a poet.
I invite all to read his beautiful book, A Life Well Worn, (finalist for the New Mexico Book Award, 2016) that he wrote during the last two years of his life and completed just two weeks before his passing.
What do you wish you would have known when Larry was diagnosed that you know now?
For the two of us, we wished we knew how complicated the medications were going to be, the potential heartbreaking side effects and the heartbreak of the loss of self-esteem. Even though we were warned by the neurologist, there really was no way to know for sure, to be prepared for the slow loss of life. Grieving begins early on with Parkinson’s.
CATHERINE STRISIK’S PHILOSOPHY
What do you wish everyone living with Parkinson’s knew about living well?
Keep moving! Physical and mental activity are incredibly beneficial to well-being, Join support groups where others with movement disorders participate. Be an advocate for others by using the skills you’ve developed in your own life. We found the support groups beautifully encouraging and uplifting, fun, and funny in our community of Taos, NM.
SHARE YOUR VICTORY
Each month, we spotlight people from our Parkinson’s community who embody living well today – what we call Moments of Victory®
Your story, like Catherine’s, could be featured on our blog and Facebook page so others can learn from your experiences and victories.