Sunday, 25 May 2014

Are You Finding What You're Looking For?

Are you finding what you're looking for Ma'am?
I’ve been asked why I often use the term “We” when talking about the blog. I suppose the insinuation is that I am but a lone soprano masquerading as a choir. Maybe, maybe not. In my defense, I point out that as  the title goes, “some days I’m the dog, some days I’m the fire hydrant”. So minimally, there are at least two voices right there.

We at Life in Parkinson's Wake like to poke fun at pretty much anything within poking distance of Parkinson's. If you can't find anything funny about Parkinson's, just  follow us and skate a little closer to the periphery of the truth. Research shows us the health benefits are just as good. That is why we are known to “goof it up” around here. It just feels good - and  now we know why.

For those who missed it, last weekend Linda Loma University researchers provided more compelling evidence that laughing provides tangible, measurable cardiovascular and metabolic benefits. So much so, that in many quarters, laughter is being referred to as more of a legitimate treatment option than ever before.

Consider the following findings rounded up from a number of research efforts:
  • Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful (belly)  laughter.
  • Anticipating a laugh reduces the level of stress hormones.
  • "HAML" [humour associated mirthful laughter] may be another non-pharmacological  lifestyle intervention to provide health, wellness [and] adjunctive therapeutic benefits,"
  • Specifically, the study showed that endorphin and human growth hormone levels rise in expectation of an upcoming positive experience - that is, even before the event occurs while other studies have shown that a daily 30-minute exposure can produce profound and longer-lasting changes in these measures.

In one of Prof. Lee Berk’s studies he looked at 20 healthy older adults in the 60s and 70s measuring their stress levels in short-term memories. One group was asked to sit silently, not talking, reading, or using their cell phones while the remainder watched funny videos (Bill Gates  And Steven Jobs cuddling? I’m not sure, they don’t specify what the funny videos were. Following a  break, the “humour group” performed approximately 20% better in recall activities in the nonregular group the humour group also displayed lower levels of cortisol, stress hormone.

In a study published in Journal of Holistic Nursing, patients were told one-liners after surgery and before painful medications was administered. Those exposed to humour perceived less pain when  compared to patients who didn’t get a dose of humour as part of their therapy.

We also came across a few studies that piqued our interest:
  • “Repetitive Laughter Effects Rival Repetitive Exercise - So Why the Hell Am I Getting up at 5am for Rowing Practice?”,
  • “The Mirthful Laughter and Bacon Regime - Your Best Shot at Happiness?”
  • “Husbands Who Think They’re Funny - Feigned Spousal  Laughter And Its Physiological Effects”.
No doubt, you can see where I’m going with this. Our relationship has been changing, and will continue to evolve.  Over this blog’s relatively short lifespan, we have seen the motive of your blog visits change from primarily a time killing session to an intensive therapy session.

In the beginning, this blog gig was just that, a “gig” - an outlet my wife suggested (maybe thinking if I had an audience online, maybe she wouldn't have to endure so much of my stupid humour at home), The Blog project was also pursued with the remote possibility that occasionally I might stumble upon some socially useful musing on life with Parkinson’s that I could share with the world.

Though we might be a pair of individuals careening towards a more professional "patient/clinician" relationship, it would seem that the field of healthcare is not quite ready for us. There are currently no regulations on “laughter therapy”,  the entire field is aching for regulation and education.

While the scientific field is catching up to the field of laughter therapy, dissemination of information at the practitioner level is woefully lacking. For example, there is a complete absence of  information regarding recommended dosages for laughter therapy. Is there a rating system for laughter content?  As an aspiring practitioner, how do I prescribe laughter therapy? How can I control who views what content? And for what duration?

For example, You, right now, in the absence of a specific comedic prescription, do you feel like this entry contains the right comedic dosage for what ails you? How many times a day are you reading this blog? Does your laughter originate from the belly or from the diaphragm?

All indicators seem to point to a significant change in our business model. In fact, this would be our first business model. We are slowly moving towards a user pays site model. We believe that all provincial health authorities will be approving humour as a billable treatment within months.

There are several issues to be worked out regarding treatment options and billable features. Several studies did conclude that the strongest comedic health effects resulting from humour associated with happiness and joy, as opposed to humour based on embarrassment and anxiety. While I cannot offer specifics just yet, I can confidently state that we will be committed to providing multiple treatment options: our regular fare, suitable for most situations and ages. The second treatment option will be based on humour that is drawn from the embarrassment and anxiety vein. If you grew up surrounded by three or more siblings, still have visible scars from the dinner table of your youth, or were tickled the point of incontinence, then this treatment model is diffinitely for you.

Hey, what do you say we just leave things the way they were? I mean, they weren’t that bad, were they?  Me fumbling through my first blog, posting with the regularity of a constipated Sinimet junkie,  snorting lines of  Metamucil behind closed doors. You, plunging headfirst into my Blog searching for nuggets of anything with a shred of therapeutic value,  like a New York City freegan working his favorite dumpster? Sounds like a winner to me :))

So if you’re willing to keep me on retainer in my old amateur status, I’m willing to stick with you. Just remember that you are fully responsible for your own dose, and monitoring any possible complications with other medications you are taking. In short, I am back to my old shtick - spewing whatever nonsense  I feel like, without any complications, repercussions, or censoring.

Life is good - at least on those days that I am the dog  :-)


Saturday, 17 May 2014

There Is Always One More Sinemet - Or Is There?

There’s always one more ...”  I have long subscribed to this adage. There is always one more parking spot, one more AAA battery somewhere in the house, and one more Sinemet.” You may have to circle the parking lot till you're nauseous, rip apart every single remote control  you can commandeer, and as for the Sinemet, well, just keep reading...

This adage applies to Sinemet as long as one subscribes to what I call,  “distributed medicating”. This is the practice of keeping a small quantity of Sinemet in virtually every nook and cranny of your daily world. That means a few tabs in most rooms in your house, in your car, your partner’s car, work, in your bicycle bag, your hiking jacket, underneath the sofa cushions, behind the seat of your buddy  Gifford  Falway’s car... You get the idea. Your imagination is the limit.

What follows is a tale of misadventure, of a desperation so gripping, that you may stagger away feeling as if you got a vicarious tug on Blair's dopamine stogie. Be careful before you judge the authors decisions made and actions taken in the final scene. I hope you will agree that one needs to be facing the same consequences in order to understand what decisions you would make.

Scene: A Snowy weekday afternoon, midwinter 2013. Parking lot, Calgary Rowing Club, authors former place of employment. Heading to the parking lot, I am the last one out.

As I took my last few steps to the car a slight stiffening of the legs along with a few stutter steps was all I needed  to know that I was headed for some mannor of  peril. On the trip down I had realized that  I had forgotten my Sinemet ( that pharmaceutical precursor to dopamine that essentially makes fluid (and for some, at times, can  seem like any) movement possible).  

While I was a firm believer in “there is always one more Sinemet”, there is also a reasonable limit to my wishful thinking. My shoulders sunk in the car seat as the realization hit - I was about to begin careening down the backside of the dopamine curve with no means whatsoever to reverse the process unless some Sinemet came into my life pronto.

With no options I was terribly fond of, I thought I should at least give the car one more search. At an almost inaudible level, I heard a voice say, “did you look for it, or did you LOOK for it? I got down on my hands and knees  and immediately a glint of telltale yellow caught my eye - under the driver’s side mat. I peeled the mat up - and there was my solution. My precise dose of three tabs of Sinemet - errr… two piles of powdered Sinemet, and a cracked, dehydrated, sad substitute for a pill. The crushed pills appeared to have been marinating in a solution of road salt and slush. A Slushy with a nice "hit" I reasoned.

I quickly came to the conclusion that I had no shame and there was no doubt whatsoever as to what I was going to do with this "medication". I thought it best at least I should pretend that I had a modicum of shame and pondered the dilemma. I knew there was something like a "five second rule" but wasn't sure if it applied to medication found under the floor mats of your car.

Your turn. What would you have done? Let me refresh your options:

1) Chow down on the yellow powder underneath the floor mat?

2) Call a taxi. (Then endure the hassle of returning later to pick up a vehicle).

3) Call a friend to come to your rescue. (Possibly someone who's never seen you in a "pre-makeup" state.

As you mull the options, Remember that no one will find out your chosen course of action (unless of course you are stupid enough to write about it in your personal blog…)

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Update To Blog Posting Schedule

Just a quick note to readers - the next posting here will be Saturday, with a regular weekend posting from that date onwards. Apologies for not being able to continue posting on the less predictable dopamine-fueled  schedule of late. It's just that I think you need more structure and that this is best means of delivery for you.  Obsessively checking for updates to this blog at work, at the dinner table, and elsewhere is going to cost you dearly someday my friend.

Failing this, we  will be looking at an intervention for you and none of us want to go down that road.

See you Saturday,