Each month, we spotlight people in our community who have inspiring stories to tell. Today, we are happy to feature Chris Manning, from Oakville, Ontario.
WHAT HAS YOUR JOURNEY BEEN LIKE SINCE YOUR PARKINSON’S DIAGNOSIS?
Three years ago, at age 81, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Soon after my diagnosis, I began working with a friend to develop a boxing program for people with Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Although my agility, balance, and footwork have all declined to the point where I can no longer easily move backwards and forwards or side to side, like is necessary in boxing, I have accepted the fact that, well, I AM 84, and that I can still look for the silver linings.
The first of these silver linings is that I received my diagnosis well after the average age of onset, which I attribute to a lifetime of careful diet and variety of physical activities. (Another lifetime silver lining is having a wonderful wife and family!)
Second, although my walking abilities have greatly declined since diagnosis, I have gotten creative and recently acquired a used baby jogger with large wheels. Stripped of its baby accoutrements, I am now able to comfortably do a 5k (3–mile) walk with little concern about my usual freezing of gait problems.
Third, I have discovered a Chinese practice called qi gung (pronounced chee–gong). Within this practice are a set of exercises called the “Eight Brocades” which have been practiced throughout the world for more than 2,000 years. The story goes that the Chinese folk hero General Yue Fei taught the exercise to his men to help keep their bodies strong and well prepared for battle. For me, 20 minutes a day of qi gung has become a form of meditation that may have eluded me entirely, had I never been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Fourth, although my writing has reached a stage of near intelligibility, Parkinson’s has left me with the wonderful ability to draw and paint.
Finally, when the coronavirus vaccine first became available and was only able to be offered to “vulnerable members of the population,” I was near the head of the line! Who said getting old is so bad?
Since my diagnosis, I have learned two important lessons. First, if I am to have anything, I am lucky to have Parkinson’s; it could have been infinitely worse – cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s. And secondly, I strive to follow the words that the Greek stoics taught: “Accept what you cannot change.” In my personal experience, the only other choice you have is to complain, which only brings misery to yourself and the people around you.
How do you live well each day?
By making the most of every day that I have left. I strive every day to reach a state that the philosopher Epicurus called ataraxia, defined as the absence of distress or disturbance; a state of mind and soul that provides great tranquility of spirit.
What do you wish you would have known when you were diagnosed that you know now about living with Parkinson’s?
Almost everything. I knew virtually nothing about it, and it took months of reading and research to gain a better understanding.
What do you wish for everyone living with Parkinson’s?
To be able to reach the state of ataraxia.
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 Chris’s, could be featured on our blog and Facebook page so others can learn from your experiences and victories.