Each month, we spotlight Moments of Victory® from people in our community. Today, we are happy to feature Faye Elahi, a Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassador from Plano, Texas.
What has your experience with Parkinson’s been like since your diagnosis?
In late 2010, I was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s, which changed my life forever! At the time, I was a young fifty-year-old active mother of two vivacious children running two nutrition clinics and enjoying my married life. Shortly after hearing about my diagnosis, I decided to accept Parkinson’s and make all the necessary psychological and physical adjustments that enabled me to continue living a fulfilled life. I immersed myself in reading as much of the literature on Parkinson’s as I could squeeze into my very full days. I soon learned the most valuable lesson: to slow down and focus on doing things I needed to keep my independent life going rather than doing what I wanted to do!
Living with Parkinson’s has made me a better person than I was before my diagnosis. All my adult life, I had a servant’s attitude towards others in my family and community without realizing that I was on a self-destructive path until my diagnosis of Parkinson’s enlightened me. By age 50, I had burned out, yet I still had a 12-year-old, beautiful daughter who needed me in her life.
Living with Parkinson’s made me re-prioritize my life. I had limited energy storage and had to choose where to put it; otherwise, I would be no help to anybody, including myself. Soon after, I adopted a routine that I could stick to daily: waking up, taking my medication, and getting my needed nutrition to run my engine smoothly for hours. Then, the daily exercises sustained my energy by maximizing the efficacy of my medication and allowing me to repeat this cycle two more times until bedtime. I have lived 12 fulfilling years with Parkinson’s without changing my medication dosage in five years! My neurologist is amazed that I not only have slowed down the progression of my Parkinson’s, but I have reversed it from stage three based on Hoehn & Yahr scale five years ago to stage one!
How do you live well each day?
I am dedicated to living life to the fullest with my Parkinson’s, surrounded by friends and family who love and support me on my journey. I speak from experience when I reassure my Parkinson’s community that we all can live well with Parkinson’s. Living well starts within each of us with a simple belief that life is beautiful, with or without sickness! Once we accept that as a fact, we permit ourselves to feel happy every day. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any challenges along the way! Instead, it means that no matter how painful our situation gets, we can choose to focus on the humor of that moment, which empowers us to shift our thoughts from sad to funny. The example that illustrates this point is when I was running to make it to the restroom at home while my legs had decided to fight me back with stiffness. Instead of fighting my stiff legs, I started dancing my way to the restroom to the tune of one of my favorite jazz songs. Suddenly I saw my cat staring at my funny walk, and I burst out laughing, thinking that at least my cat was amused by my weird walk.
To sum it all up, I have integrated an enjoyable exercise routine, a nutritious and tasty diet, and a touch of positivity into my daily life. That’s my definition of living well each day.
What do you wish you would’ve known when you were diagnosed with Parkinson’s?
I wish I had known more about the advantages and disadvantages of starting medication therapies at the time of diagnosis. Since the gold-standard medication prescribed for managing Parkinson’s, Levodopa, can have a narrow therapeutic window for some, I could have explored other safe complementary medicine options to manage my motor and non-motor symptoms before starting on Levodopa.
What do you wish everyone with Parkinson’s knew about living well?
Every person diagnosed with Parkinson’s would benefit from knowing the long-term benefits of daily exercise/ movement in combination with a specific diet adapted to their unique symptoms. The essential component of a fulfilled life as a person with Parkinson’s is a supportive diet because that provides the fuel we need for daily exercise, which positively impacts our mood, outlook, and so much more.
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 Faye’s, could be featured on our blog and Facebook page so others can learn from your experiences and victories.