Surprising Gifts Parkinson’s Has Given Me

Woman climber success silhouette in mountains, ocean and sunset

Written by Amy Dressel-Martin, MA

This time of year, many people set lofty, life-changing goals.

I’m not one of them.

Frankly, I have enough to manage without piling on any resolution-related stress! Instead, I find it more rewarding to observe and reflect around New Year’s to simply live well each day.

Reflecting on living with Parkinson’s

As 2017 begins, and I approach the third anniversary of my Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery, I see that I have a lot to be thankful for: the technology itself, my medical team and especially, my loving and supportive family.

Ironically, my husband says I’m happier now than I most likely would be without the constant crazy of Parkinson’s.

He says I laugh more, I have closer relationships with our kids and I’m more likely to go do something important to me, rather than follow my old tendencies to stress…about…everything.

Although we can’t compare apples to apples (since there is no longer a “me” without Parkinson’s) I can envision what I could have been like at age 48: concerned with appearances and consumed with what other people think. Reflection reveals just how much Parkinson’s has cut me to the core on that one.

Who can be concerned with their hairstyle while trying to walk through a crowd without taking someone out? Or while straining to yell over the din in a restaurant so their opinion can be heard?

How can I be concerned whether my shoes look cute when I’m falling, because I lost my balance?

I wear flats so I don’t fall over and allow myself only one glass of wine, because my speech is quiet, slow and slurred without the influence of alcohol. I plan naps for busy days or weeks so I can keep up with work, family and friends.

I have friends with Parkinson’s who truly see the disease as a gift, because it brought them all the friends they’ve made on their journey. While I love my new friends and they are the best part of my new life as a person with Parkinson’s, I don’t thank Parkinson’s. It has hurt me, and it has hurt these warm, generous people in my life — whom I hope I would have known anyway, somehow, somewhere.

Yet, as I look at my life now, I realize being diagnosed and living with Parkinson’s has honestly changed my priorities for the better.

My eyes have been opened to the struggles others may be facing. And, at the same time, my ears are learning to listen to my own needs first.

Moving Forward into the New Year

So, I think my husband is right: I am happier, in a way. And, I am more grateful for the life I have — right now. Happiness and gratitude have organically changed me, expanding my heart and my world, and that is what I plan to take with me each day in the new year.

amy_dressel-martinAmy Dressel-Martin lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, two teenagers, an orange cat, two chickens and a duck (who thinks he’s a chicken). She is eternally grateful to whoever decided putting electrodes in the brain attached to batteries under the collarbone was a good idea, because it was. 

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Comments (7)

Very inspiring Amy! I agree that we can choose transformation with any challenges. I have early sign of PD (tremor in my finger). A while ago, I wrote this blog:

Hi Shabbir – Thank you for your response. Please email us at should you have more questions or feedback.

Ronald T Rodrigues

Dear Amy
Your article has given me added joy and encouragement to under go the DBS surgery
I have prayed much and asked God to do is will
I come from Mumbai India Iam79 years and living with Parkinson for 20 years May God bless you and your family

Hi Ron – Thank you for sharing your feedback. Please email us at should you have questions.

Dear Amy,
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease ten years ago this month at age 58. Life has taken on a whole new meaning since that diagnosis. I look at the disease as a “Life sentence” not a death sentence.. Having PD has allowed me to focus on the people I love and care for the most – family and friends. Spending quality time with my grandchildren to build memories is a favorite past time. Always rather shy, I have learned to reach out to others both to give to and occasionally ask for help . I sometimes have lunch with other women who have just received a PD diagnosis and make myself to available to listen to their questions and concerns. I am thankful for each day and try to live it to the fullest and to make a positive difference – no matter how small – in someone’s life. Although I would not have chosen to have PD, I am content and feel truly blessed in this life.


Ruth, thank you for sharing this with us. We love to hear your stories about how you live well with Parkinson’s!

I was diagnosed with PD in 1997 after atypical symptoms for 11 years. I still have atypical PD and most days I don’t let it bother me. Lately, however, it has been progressing much more rapidly then I thought it ever would. I have not worked since 2008 and have lost the ability to work out in the yard which I dearly loved.
Yet today I sit with a new Movement Disorder Specialist who is trying to juggle my DBS (placed 2011, made a huge difference in my ability to walk), and medications around to increase my functional time and decrease fatigue. New eyes see things differently!

When I am down in the dumps, and I have been there as of late, I count my blessings: my husband, my friends, my resilient spirit, my ability to go with the flow, my family (especially my older sister), and the things that I can still do. So each day that goes by brings a new joy to share and a new challenge to face.

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