My name is Stan Marshall and I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) about a year ago. I don’t remember the exact date but it doesn’t really matter as the symptoms were present for many years before the official diagnosis. Little things, like finding it difficult to turn over in bed, or walking more slowly than usual. I should have clued in when a little old lady (about 70) with a knee brace pulled out and passed me on one of my exercise walks. Also, I began to become a little more uncertain doing anything that required balance. Stepping down from the bleachers at the fall fair became a small challenge. I remember chastising myself for becoming “old.” In reality, I was in my late 50’s – not old at all. It wasn’t until I was 63 that I was “officially” diagnosed and only then because I was experiencing considerable pain in my left leg and had significant tremour which I could no longer control at will.
I am telling you this just to set the context of this blog with no intention to garner sympathy or pity. I have a wonderfully supportive wife and lover, Anne, who is central to my well being. Our blended family children (Natalie, Sophie, Kristen and Allie) are grown, away from home, wonderful people, and very supportive. Matthew and Mike are our two sons-in-law and are perfect in their own ways as is one boyfriend, Marty. They all are doing important things with their own lives.
Since the diagnosis, I retired with a good pension. I left a job that I loved and work colleagues who I admired terribly and miss enormously. I still meet with many of them for breakfast, lunch, coffee or tea. There is no need to feel sorry for me. I don’t. When I informed my children, I told them that you don’t really die from PD; that on the whole I would rather not have PD, but given a choice I would rather have PD than Lou Gerhig’s Disease Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); but if I was given a choice to have PD or be a Toronto Maple Leaf’s fan, it was about 50%. Leafs’ fans will loudly object to this but having a sense of humour and a proper perspective on life is so incredibly important.
Nevertheless, PD is a fact of life for me. I will, of course, be referring to my experiences (both past and current) in my blog but they are only intended to give an insight into what life with PD is like in my particular situation. I fully recognize that life with PD varies considerably from individual to individual and according to how far the disease has progressed. It is a degenerative disease and will change over the course of a lifetime.
So, what has gardening got to do with anything? In a nutshell, gardening is my therapy. While I have gardened occasionally over my lifetime, it is only within the last 20 years that I have taken it up with a passion. My passion is for perennial plants rather than vegetable or food stuffs gardening. I appreciate the latter but prefer the former. Gardening is in my family bloodlines with my paternal grandparents and an uncle being significant contributors to horticulture in Manitoba. At family gatherings when I was growing up both gardening and horticulture (writ large) were always topics of conversation around the dinner table. Maybe I learned something through osmosis, I don’t know, but my life now is enhanced considerably by that socialization and ability to enjoy the sheer delight of watching a garden flourish and, on the other end of the spectrum, watch a garden change and challenge us as plants unexpectedly wither and die, or grow to be so invasive as to overrule our best made plans. Our garden is not an orderly planned garden. We permit many plants that others would call “weeds” to grow as long as it contributes something to the overall beauty or architecture of the garden. My father used to day that a weed is only a plant that is growing in the wrong place,
I fear this introductory piece is becoming a bit long and I don’t want to bore you with details that are likely only important to me. I am sure that you instantly realized that I am not an expert blogger. Bear with me. My blog entries will contain many current experiences with both Parkinson’s and gardening but you will undoubtedly have to suffer through some historical detritus if you persist in reading. I do not have a grand plan for this blog. It will unfold as it will or as Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto has said it will “unravel” as it will.