Each month, we spotlight people in our community who have inspiring stories to tell. Today, we are happy to feature Ivan Falconi, who has been living well with Parkinson’s in Quito, Ecuador, for the past 14 years.
WHAT HAS YOUR JOURNEY BEEN LIKE SINCE YOUR PARKINSON’S DIAGNOSIS?
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 14 years ago at age 43. I have always been active, and that is still true today. When I noticed that my Parkinson’s had changed the biomechanics of my stride, I started swimming to avoid lesions, but since my style was not efficient, it took a lot of effort to swim 1,000 meters. Although I kept it up for 18 months, I did not enjoy it, and finally, I quit! Now, five days a week, I ride my mountain bike in a eucalyptus forest beside my home in Quito, Ecuador.
HOW DO YOU LIVE WELL EACH DAY?
As long as I exercise on my bike, I am well. During my OFF periods, I read about science or statistics. For some reason, this activity relaxes me, and I can then resume my activities without frustration.
About four years ago, I was asked during an online conference to analyze data from a production monitoring system. Although I had learned how to use Excel by reading a book, if you do not practice, you can forget easily. I was embarrassed and asked my colleague how to set up the function in Excel. He helped me and that motivated me to help myself.
The following day, I reread the Excel how-to book and practiced. A few days later, I took an online statistics class using R (a programming language for statistical computing and graphics). Then I took another course about coding. Then another. Then at least 23 more in a variety of different subjects.
I read a long time ago that as we age we lose our cognitive strength and that the best way to reduce such loss is learning new things. The article I’d read recommended you learn how to play a musical instrument or a new language. Essentially, I learned to code with a new language.
Rather than spending my time in front of a television, I nurture my mind with material that keeps my cognition active. For me, reading is an analgesic for the soul.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU WOULD HAVE KNOWN WHEN YOU WERE DIAGNOSED THAT YOU KNOW NOW ABOUT LIVING WITH PARKINSON’S?
With Parkinson’s, you are forced to live the present, the day, the hour. I had once heard that living in the present is one ingredient for reaching happiness and since my diagnosis, I have found this to be true.
Living with Parkinson’s can be a sort of dichotomy, an ambiguity, a contradiction. It is like carrying a burden, and, occasionally, the burden feels heavy and the soul hurts. On the other hand, living with Parkinson’s is a blessing.
It teaches you to be a better son, better husband, better father, better neighbor. You see, feel, taste, live life with a different perspective.
I doubt there is anyone who at some time has not lost their compass, their north star that guides their purpose. A tragedy, a difficult time, an issue, a trouble—these can put you on the right track. This does not mean the road is smooth and easy. The opposite is true. But walking on the right track means that although the road is bumpy, you have acquired the strength and the best shock absorbers ever made to deal with the anticipated and with the unexpected, too.
WHAT DO YOU WISH EVERYONE LIVING WITH PARKINSON’S KNEW ABOUT LIVING WELL?
Focus on the present, not the future. This takes out the uncertainty; living in the current moment makes you feel you are in control.
Grab a book that challenges you cognitively. Switch off the TV, read your book, relax, go for a long bike ride, and be happy.
SHARE YOUR VICTORY
Each month, we spotlight people from our Parkinson’s community who embody living well today – what we call Moments of Victory®.