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My parents and me

Recently my mother, at age 82, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. It struck me that for all the volunteer work I've done for the national Parkinson's organizations and patient advocacy groups over the last 14 years, I had little more to offer my mother in the way of a cure than had initially been available to me. The one new thing we have learned is how critical daily exercise is to controlling symptoms.

My mother is one of the few people I know who is more exercise averse than I am (it is obviously in the genes). Every day I would call and work with my Dad to cajole her to get out of bed and get moving. Finally, I told her that I have received countless thank yous from people all over the world who adopted exercise because of my encouragement and I was not going to allow my own mother to make me a failure. She now walks in her condo's pool several days a week with her women friends and is feeling much better. I am very proud of her.

My mother probably has had Parkinson's symptoms for at least a year, but I attributed them to depression. No matter how much we know about this disease, it is easy to misdiagnose. Results of the lengthy and expensive new diagnostic DatScan test were inconclusive, but one dose of Sinemet erased all doubts.

Meanwhile, my mother, a retired nurse, still volunteers in a day surgery unit, and has plenty of health advice for me. She all but threatened to fly up here on a fleet enema when pain medicine I took following my recent total knee replacements left me constipated. Just what every 58-year-old daughter wants is her mother's daily calls to ask if she has gone #2 yet.

Sheryl & her parents toasting their chocolate malts!

Sometimes it isn't until our parents start having chronic health issues that we finally tell them directly or indirectly how much they mean to us. I talk to my parents every day and dread the time when they will no longer be there to answer the phone. I shared this worry with a good friend who told me that she wished she had had that kind of relationship with her parents that she would be sad to think how much she would miss them when they were gone. I guess there is a lot of truth to that.

If you haven't told your aging parents how much they mean to you, today is as good a time as any to do so. None of us is promised tomorrow. Don't let the moment slip away.

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