On this episode, I have an interview with Larry Gifford from the When Life Gives You Parkinson’s podcast. He was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease at age 45. This was a serious curve ball for someone with a spouse, a child, and a blossoming career in radio. We talk about his show, coping with a Parkinson’s diagnosis, honest conversations with family, and misconceptions about Parkinson’s disease.
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Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that causes a breakdown in the neurons that produce a chemical called dopamine in your brain. This leads to a variety of symptoms including impaired balance and coordination, tremor, muscle rigidity, and walking difficulty.
Although it’s often thought of as an “old person’s disease”, Larry Gifford is living proof that the disease unfortunately can take hold much earlier in some. Larry was a great guest and laid his experience out there in such an open and inviting way. Here are just a few of the things that we discussed:
- Larry was (and still is) someone that most would consider successful. He has a wife and a 9-year-old son, a great job, and the respect of his peers. Suddenly he was thrown the curve ball that is Parkinson’s disease.
- His symptoms actually began 5-7 years prior to his diagnosis. He first noticed a tremor in his hands. Next, people would ask him to walk more softly because he was “clomping” and dragging his foot. His voice also began to go out after speaking for a relatively short amount of time, which can be a problem when your career is in radio.
- The diagnosis was followed by a mourning process as well as depression and anxiety.
- Larry discovered by reaching out there there is an amazing community of people affected by Parkinson’s disease that are always willing to help out.
- While he may never know how or why he got the disease, Larry has been able to begin crafting his own narrative and seeing it as an opportunity to impact people and discuss a topic that sometimes does not get the attention that it deserves.
- Larry has adopted the mindset of living through Parkinson’s rather than against it.
- We discussed his individual experience taking dopamine medication (Carbidopa-Levodopa), including the disturbing side-effect of minor hallucinations.
- Larry’s podcast, When Life Gives You Parkinson’s follows his journey. The show features experiential accounts of his different therapies, appointments, and even a full support group. As Larry put it, “If I’m going to open my kimono, I’m gonna open it all the way.”
- The future may be unpredictable, but Larry and his family are in it together by practicing openness, communication, and remembering to have fun.
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