First, thank you for visiting my blog and being curious about me, my poetry and art. So hello, and let me introduce myself. My name is Lynn McHale; I’m 63, divorced for 30 years, retired in Sept. 2012 from Sears Holdings after 41 years. I have a son and daughter in-law, no grandchildren yet. I have a wonderful family, friends and neighbors who are all very supportive.
I love nature, watch the weather, play bunco and game night each monthly with neighbors, love to decorate (helped three friends do some redecorating), and love to see plays (subscribe to Broadway series at the Paramount).
In 2005, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. I underwent chemo-therapy, a lumpectomy with nodes removed and radiation. I thought I had waged the toughest battle of my life; I had survived breast cancer and was now busy living my life. I am still cancer free today and very grateful for the last 8 years!
In 2011, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which absolutely devastated me. I had already fought and survived breast cancer. I couldn’t possibly have a degenerative brain disease! I didn’t deserve to have this happen to me! I was very angry, frightened and in despair. I remember telling someone that this was the “kiss of death”. I had great difficulty wrapping my head around this diagnosis, and when my coping skills were depleted, I realized I needed professional help.
I sought help from a neuro-psychologist over the course of several months. He helped me re-frame how I thought about having PD and living with a chronic illness and most importantly how I perceived myself. In the safe confines of his office, I could be brutally honest. I didn’t have to be guarded when I described how I was feeling. I didn’t have to soften the message or try to hide things to protect and shield my family and friends. It was finally OK to tell people at work. I had only told my Director and VP and select few others. It was OK to be really, really angry. It was OK to hate everybody and everything! It was OK to cry, even to laugh! Keeping it all to myself had become such a burden, which now was lifted. Most importantly, I did not have to pretend to be strong; I could sit there and be just me, all my raw emotions exposed, learning how to be Lynn, who happens to have Parkinson’s. I went back again about a year later for a few weeks, for what I call a “tune up” or “attitude adjustment”, as I feel I will always experience ups and downs, and sometimes the downs just need to be talked through. I highly recommend counseling for learning how to accept and cope with living with PD.
I should mention that I did see two separate psychologists when I was battling cancer, both of whom had very different approaches and I liked very much. That being said, coping with Parkinson’s has been more difficult. With cancer, I’d either survive or die. With Parkinson’s, the “unknown” taunts you each day. It’s coping with this “unknown” that takes you to the edge (not ledge) at times and can mess with your mind (we already know about issues there).
Support Group Programs
Within a month of diagnosis, I joined a support group and tried to get in some exercise while still working full time (you know how well that worked). Fifteen months later, I decided to retire a little earlier than planned so I could concentrate on my health and attend exercise classes. I now exercise at the Healthplex 3-4 days a week in both land and water exercise classes (some classes just for Parkinson’s).
Our Movement Disorder Program is blessed by the generosity of an anonymous sponsor who’s endowment funds all the exercise classes (4 land and 1 water exercise classes per week), art therapy classes, Introduction to Parkinson’s classes for newly diagnosed, monthly support meetings at two locations, newsletter, and dinner with doctor evenings a few times a year. All of the above is offered free to people with Parkinson’s in the area. It is “best in class!” I am truly fortunate to be able to have this program so close and to participate in it.
I have been writing poetry for about a year. My writing comes from needing to get my feelings and emotions out of my head. This helps me frame up and clarify all the emotions and thoughts colliding and crashing into each other in my head. Initially, I started writing about my anger, frustration and fear I had about Parkinson’s. Over time, my writing transitioned, focusing on other aspects of life that I enjoy, or observe, or think about; such as a word or phrase I find interesting. Some are very personal and were written and intended just for me; but now I would like to share them. Some poems have meter and rhyme, others free style. It just depends on how I feel about the subject when I’m writing.
I joined a writers’ group at the public library, where I share my poetry and receive feedback from other writers, helping me to improve. I even read one of my poems for an on-line segment of the library’s writers’ group magazine. That really stretched my comfort zone! I submitted my poem “White Weather Inhabitants” in Illinois State Poetry Contest for Emerging Poets. I did not win, but it was something I never dreamed I would do, and it was exciting just the same!
My support group offered art therapy classes last year and continues this year. I felt inspired doing art projects and sharing the interpretation with the other participants. Time seemed to stand still, not matter. I found myself immersed in concentration and creation. That inspired me to start taking art classes: beginner drawing, colored and water color pencil, acrylic painting and a jewelry class at a Pinot and Painting establishment (wine and appetizers included!!), mosaic classes, botanical leaf printing classes, and few others. To my delight, I discovered I was quite good and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I never had the time prior to retiring to indulge myself in any art classes. Who knew I’d love this new discovery so much!
It took me about 9 months into my retirement to figure out what activities I truly enjoyed, what other activities I wanted to explore, and where, how and with whom I wanted to invest my time and energy. I was learning how to achieve the balance in my life between Parkinson’s related activities and what I call the “other parts of my life”. My poetry and art reflect the balance I found that allows me to live in peace with my Parkinson’s.
My Involvement with PD
I am involved with the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA) Midwest Chapter as a Board member. I enjoy being a part of this organization and helping others through the education, activities and services we provide both locally and nationally. We plan and hold an Annual Symposium each Spring, a fundraiser Walk and membership drive in Fall. We train support group leaders once a year. We provide respite care for caregivers who are members of APDA and meet requirements.
My purpose for this blog is to share my poetry, artwork and photos. I hope that by seeing how my poetry and art helped me as a means of coping with the day to day ups and downs of living with Parkinson’s, it may help or inspire you to look at life and living with PD differently.
I’ve been writing for a year, so I have many poems to share and post. I will post several poems for the launch of my blog, and then I’ll post weekly on Sundays. At times, I may just share some thoughts with you.
I encourage you to start writing whatever and however it comes out! It does not have to be good, or rhyme or even make sense to anyone else. It only has to make sense and serve its purpose to you. Even with doing some form of art, just do it for fun and for yourself. It if gives you pleasure and makes you happy, and takes your mind off things, then that is great!
Please feel free to comment. I really want to know if a poem or photo has touched you in any way, or even inspired you. I will respond to your comments.
My hope is that you will be inspired by something or someone that helps you cope with living with Parkinson’s.
My hope is that you will explore and discover some aspect of yourself, maybe for the first time, or re-discover yourself again.
My hope is that in time, you will find balance and beauty again in the world around you and live in peace with Parkinson’s.
My hope is that you will see yourself as I now see myself:
I am Lynn, who happens to have Parkinson’s,
Not a Parkinson’s patient, who happens to be Lynn.
Yes, that being said, I work daily to achieve this state of mind.
I have lots of visual stimuli around the house to encourage and remind me!!!
Thank you! This was a lot to read, thanks for hanging in there!
My hope is for you to enjoy my blog.