Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Pick up your feet"

So I mentioned that my dad remembers “tripping on the last step” as the first symptom he noticed of Parkinson’s Disease. He told his doctor, who said, “Pick up your feet.” He’s still mad about that.
I tripped on the steps the other night. Sunday around 8 o’clock, after running eleven miles on tired legs,  I just caught the toe of my sandal on the tread. I’ve probably done it before, right? I’d mentioned to my doctor that I’ve had some dizziness when I turn suddenly (again, usually after running far or hard). He told me that’s part of getting old, which sounded vaguely like, “Pick up your feet.”
From what I’ve read, PD is genetic, but there seems to be an uncertain hereditary factor. It appears in direct families, like father-son. According to my mother, late-onset Parkinson’s is not generally hereditary, something that makes them feel better, she told me. My parents worry a great deal about the ways their genes may be harming us, from my brother’s collapsed lungs to my sister’s Celiac disease.
Last Saturday I ran seventeen miles on obscure and rough trails, and I don’t recall losing my balance or tripping at all. I never felt very comfortable, but just kept adding more miles with right or left turns. But everything after the first fifty minutes came at roughly the same level of “uncomfortable.” I stopped on the drive home at a football field to run 10 x 120 yard barefoot striders.  
I know that my legs are tired, that my feet ache a little, and that tripping on a stair is related to fatigue more than anything else. Right?
If it’s true that my father’s grandfather may have had Parkinson’s, that his father may have had Parkinson’s, that his sister had a form of Parkinson’s, well, I don’t know. 
As long as I can remember, I’ve thought that an hour or two or six in the woods was a great way to spend an afternoon no matter how uncomfortable or even bad the run felt. Today was another good example, and I kept running with the discomfort, and finished feeling like I could run another ten or fifteen miles at the same deliberate pace, which I’ll do on January 7th at Harbison.  
During those hours running, I didn’t think about having tripped on the steps, being too busy figuring out why I felt like crap and whether to turn left or right. But I’m thinking about it now, and feeling especially glad to be able to run like that. I’m thinking about the fifty-minute warm-up. I decided whether to turn right or left based on adding miles or not, and chose more miles each time.
I’ve felt a lot more emotional about turning 50 than any other birthday. I feel a little like I’m running out of time to have adventures the way I like, and no matter how fast or far I run, I’ll never outrun that one. I feel the kind of urgency that I felt when I was 21, only older. All that’s not unrelated to my running new distances--new PRs, new limits. I can’t run as fast as I did in my 20s, so I might as well run a long way, something the 20s me would never have conceived of. 

EO focuses on walking now, and gets around well with a walker. He and my mom went to Carlos Agudelo’s dance class for Parkinson’s patients and caregivers. They enjoyed it, enjoyed Carlos who also teaches Quinn ballet, and stayed for the discussion afterwards. I still chuckle about dropping my parents off at dance class.
I try to celebrate all my victories no matter how small--like when there is enough cheese for the mac-n-cheese recipe I like, or when the light stays green as I coast down the long hill to the coffee shop, or I run seventeen miles in the woods.

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