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Talk of using a walker ends PD "honeymoon"

My 15-year honeymoon with Parkinson's disease ended unexpectedly when my new physical therapist, Mia, completed a three-hour evaluation and recommended I start using a walker. Her words hit me like a ton of bricks, as I was totally unprepared for this conversation. For me, moving to a walker signified the beginning of the end. It was my line in the sand, a turning point in my body's assault on me, and my first significant loss.

Seeing tears welling up in my eyes, Mia quickly assured me that her suggestion was based not on worsening Parkinson's symptoms, but on cascading orthopedic issues, including spinal stenosis and sciatic nerve pain, that pose the greatest threat to my long-term mobility and independence. Surely we can try something other than a walker to address my gait issues, I pleaded.

Mia said nothing more about it until after our moderately paced walk up and down the corridors in her building. I got winded quickly and my gait fell apart, leaving me to limp back to where we started. "I had no idea your stamina was so low," Mia told me. "You do a very good job of hiding it, but now you're busted."

Using a walker just for six months or so, she said, will help stabilize and preserve your spine, get you in the habit of taking longer strides, and increase your stamina – all critical to normalizing your gait.



To illustrate her point, she had me repeat our walk using a walker. It was definitely easier, but I still wasn't ready to go that route. At the same time, quitting has never been an option for me, and losing the fight even less so.That's what prompted me to call in the "cavalry" to begin with. Mia is known for looking beyond isolated symptoms, "connecting the dots" to reveal the big picture, and formulating treatment plans to shore up and compensate for weaknesses. We agreed that I would first try increasing my stamina by walking the treadmill. Going to a walker would be a backup plan. I am certain the treadmill will work.

Listening to the news on my drive home, I was suddenly grateful for the options available to me, even if I felt I was playing with a deck stacked against me. The 298 people aboard the Malaysian passenger jet shot outof the sky that day had no options.Sheryl's signature


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