What has your life been like since your diagnosis?
It was a cold, gray day in January 2010 when I finally heard the words I knew were coming, "You have Parkinson's."
With this diagnosis came a lot of soul searching and personal growth. Who was I now? I was always strong, healthy and athletic. Was I still that person?
I suddenly felt vulnerable, fragile and weak. My confidence was shattered. I felt like damaged goods. How could I ever feel proud of anything ever again? I was always an optimistic person, so it was hard to share these dark thoughts. Writing poetry helped me sort out my feelings and vent my anger. Then one day, about a year later, I had an epiphany. I could live a joyous life with Parkinson's or be miserable. Either way, I would still have Parkinson's. I chose joy, and I truly do live that way nearly every day! "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain”, said Vivian Greene. So, let me tell you about my dance!
How do you live well each day?
There is a great gift that comes from a diagnosis like Parkinson's. It's called gratitude. I have an abundant appreciation for things that I would have otherwise taken for granted. When I go hiking, I may not hike as far or as high, but when I reach my destination, I literally cry with joy that I’m still able to see this beautiful world of ours and share these moments with my husband.
I make sure to plan lunch dates with friends, and I often have the family over for no particular reason, just to enjoy their company.
I live well because I have a family I love so very much. I don't want this disease to become who we are so I do everything I can to still be a "whole" person. That means I get out, I exercise, I keep learning and I set goals. Six months ago I set a goal to become a yoga instructor because yoga has been so helpful to me. Soon I hope to start teaching a Parkinson's yoga class and inspire my students with my strength and optimism. And the truth is I AM proud of myself, probably more often now than before I was diagnosed. And my husband? He thinks I'm the strongest person he knows!
What do you wish you would have known when you were diagnosed that you know now about living with Parkinson’s?
I wish I had known that life goes on and that happiness is still achievable. I was worried I would become stagnant and boring, when in fact I have grown in ways I would never have without the diagnosis. Several fundraisers (I have raised over $80,000 in seven years) have put me in the spotlight, and I have learned to speak in public, even in front of a TV camera! Originally I felt my self-esteem plummet. Today I know that Parkinson’s has given me the chance to be an inspiring role model, and I feel really good about that!
Debbie Flamini's Philosophy
What do you wish everyone living with Parkinson’s knew about living well?
I wish every person with Parkinson’s knew that if they truly embrace joy, their life will be filled with it. You can live well with Parkinson's, but you need to allow it in!
Share Your Victory
Each month, we spotlight someone from our Parkinson’s community who embodies living well today – what we call Moments of Victory®.