Sunday 28 December 2014

'It takes a while to get your head around it...'

Marian Newman gave up her life as high-flying banker in the City of London after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years ago. Brian Farrell
Marian Newman gave up her life as high-flying banker in the City of London after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years ago. Brian Farrell
Martina Sinnott, treasurer East Midlands Parkinson’s Support Group.

Thanks to the actor Michael J Fox and his awareness-raising activities, most of us now have an idea of what Parkinson's Disease is. It is a progressive neurological disorder for which there is no cure as of yet. Nor is it known what causes it but it is known that things like stress exacerbate it.

Marian Newman (60), never suspected she might have Parkinson's when she started showing symptoms of the disease. Five years ago, she was leading a busy career as a banker in the City in London. She came home to Mayo to visit her ill mother. Six months later, she was diagnosed with Parkinson's.

"I was constantly tired but I put it down to work and didn't think more of it," she said.

Marian had other symptoms too. She had what she describes as a 'sticking foot', meaning her foot would 'stick' to the ground and she would trip.

"It got to the point where I couldn't brush my teeth, I couldn't put my make-up on. I mentioned to my sister, and she said 'you've got Parkinson's'. She had seen my mother who had Parkinson's."

Marian went to her doctor that same day and he referred her on to a specialist who put her on Parkinson's medication. After six months, she had her diagnosis. She had Parkinson's Disease.

Things got better with medication but she has side effects.

"I have vivid nightmares and I re-enact dreams, so I fall out of bed. I had so many mouth ulcers from 'dry mouth' that couldn't eat at my nephew's wedding."

Marian says it's important to remember the work that carers do as they are often forgotten. "People call me every day to make sure I'm still around. My sister lives nearby and my niece is moving back from Australia."

With no cure, Marian tries not to think too far in advance.

"I don't worry; you'd stop living if you were to worry about it. I make hats, more as a hobby than anything else. It keeps my hands moving and I play bridge to keep my brain going. Some 30pc of Parkinson's turns into dementia. My mother had dementia. I try to keep active, do the gardening and if you get tired you just have to take a break."

Marian is chairperson of the Parkinson's Association in Mayo. "I needed someone to talk to, someone who knows what you're going through. People knew what I was talking about there."

"I'm determined not to let it beat me and I hide it well.

"But if I'm in a supermarket and I'm having a bad day I won't be able to open my purse and pack my bags at the same time and someone in the checkout queue might tut. That's where the awareness of the disease is important."

She doesn't work any more. "I don't miss it as such now. I've made a life for myself. Moving from the city to the West Coast of Ireland is a big culture shock."

She lives life a little differently now. "You've got to live every day and not take life so seriously. You've got to get on with your life. I'm more tolerant now than I used to be. I think my personality has changed for better, I've calmed down."

Martina Sinnott started developing Parkinson's Disease at the age of just 34. She was a busy mum of four when she noticed she was getting muscle spasms and when she started losing the power in her right arm and wasn't able to peel carrots or make gravy for her children's dinner, she went to the doctor.

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