by Nancy Alexander, PT
I was reminded of Bob recently when I saw one of those inspiring quotes on social media. It read, “Life is all about how you handle Plan B.” We’re all dealt with change in life, aren’t we? Some things just don’t go as planned. Sometimes we get some news that has the potential to rock us to the core. Truth is, we have a choice as to how we respond.
Bob is 69 years young and retired five years ago. His wife retired about a year ago. About two years ago, Bob started noticing some changes to his body. He self-diagnosed it as restless leg syndrome. He and others also noticed his walking changed. His feet were wider apart and his arms were up in the air beside him. His facial expression changed. Actually, it didn’t change — that was the problem. It was flat with little expression at all. He had bouts of constipation that could not be explained. He is a frequent swimmer and he began to notice that he couldn’t flutter kick like he used to. “I sunk,” Bob said. “I just didn’t have the strength or coordination to do it.”
His symptoms were explained about one year later when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. “That is not how I planned to spend my retirement,” Bob noted. I asked Bob what his initial reaction was. “I wasn’t surprised,” he said. As a pharmacist, he had known something wasn’t right and had an idea what it might be. Bob revealed he has an uncle with Parkinson’s. His younger brother has Parkinson’s, too.
Bob is a doer. He is very active and currently swims at the Canandaigua Family YMCA three days per week. He performs cardio exercise two days per week. He walks about five miles per day. He is active on the weekends, too. Bob has always been active physically and professionally. He retired from UR Medicine’s Thompson Health after 30 years of service. He was Director of Pharmacy and Cardiopulmonary Services. He has also served as Executive Director of Therapeutic Services at Thompson Health. He contributed to St. John Fisher’s Pharmacy program for many years including serving on the Pharmacy Assessment Committee and multiple search committees. He was awarded a Preceptor of the Year there. “I really enjoyed being at St. John Fisher,” said Bob. “That was fun and I was appreciated.”
Bob served on the Board of Directors for the Canandaigua Family YMCA for approximately 20 years. He served as President of the Board for three years, and Vice President for three years. He is currently President of the Thompson Health Guild and has served there about five years. He currently works at the Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store in Canandaigua. He enjoys woodworking and has a shop at his home.
He and his wife started travelling more after they retired. They visit family across the United States and have been on many cruises. They’ve been to Hawaii twice and plan to go again. It is easy to see that Bob has contributed greatly to the health of his community. His accomplishments are many. His achievements are extensive. His attitude, however, is arguably his greatest asset.
“When I received this diagnosis, I decided I could feel sorry for myself or move on,” said Bob. “I’m not going to change it. It is what it is. Sitting and stewing is not going to help.” He remembered telling his younger brother when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease that it wasn’t a death sentence. “Now,” Bob said, “I have to remind myself to take that same advice.” Bob added, “Other people have it a lot worse than I do. To me, it’s an easy choice. I really don’t feel any different. I can still do all the things I enjoy – I just get tired a little more quickly. I’m so thankful I’m turning 70.”
Soon after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, Bob took action. He enrolled in treatments called LSVT-LOUD and LSVT-BIG. Bob said both helped him greatly. (For more information, visit https://lsvtglobal.com/patient-resource) Bob attended a local support group but hasn’t been able to go much as it conflicts with his hours at the Re-Store. “I walked in and was surprised there were three other guys I knew there.” He started journaling about having Parkinson’s Disease and notes observations he’s made and writes about how he feels about what is happening. He is staying active and takes his medications. “It is so important for me to continue exercising and to just keep moving. I feel better when I do.”
Bob is making this adjustment look easy. I’m sure it’s not. He could have become angry. He could have complained. He could be bitter. He is none of those things. He is the same kind and caring man he has always been. He made a choice to keep on living. I’m sharing this story because Bob wanted to share it. He hopes that others who are dealt a challenging diagnosis can learn to live with their condition, and, more importantly, live a good life at that. “As long as you can keep doing what you’re doing, do it!” said Bob. “Know your limits – but do what you can.”
As for Bob, he continues to exercise five days per week and looks forward to spending time with his wife, traveling, seeing his grandkids. “I’m going to keep going.”
Plan B is looking pretty good to Bob. Well played, Bob. Well played.