Testudo, the Latin word for Tortoise, is the term used to describe an ancient Roman military formation used to defend against arrows and other projectile attacks from above. Surely you remember the end of the movie 300, Leonidas facing down the Persian army with the last of his 300 Spartan Hoplites clustered behind him, their massive shields interlocking on all sides and overhead to form an impenetrable shield wall.
This past week life and Parkinson’s got together and sent a sizable volley of arrows my way. For a few hours there the only thing I could do was call “Testudo!” and huddle under my shields while the arrows rained down. Needless to say, I was not laughing it off the way Astinos did when the Spartans weathered the volley that “blotted out the Sun” in their first battle.
Due to a temporary lapse in my insurance coverage, I found myself without Mirapex (my main medication) for almost two days. During one of my many calls to try to get everything straightened out I was told that I wasn’t going to be eligible to have my insurance premiums covered while I was out on disability this time. “So you’re telling me that while I’m unable to work with this tear in my elbow, I’m going to have no medical coverage to either get it fixed or to get treatment for my Parkinson’s Disease?” I asked. “I’m afraid so.” was the response. I was told to call someone specifically in another department but of course all i got was her voice mail. By this time the shakes were getting pretty bad including some involuntary head movement and restless legs. I was being given a glimpse at what this disease is doing behind the screen of my medication. As there was nothing I could do but wait for a call back, which I might add, has still never come, I did the only thing I could do. I went full Testudo Formation and I slept.
This was a window onto a scene I had no desire for. Even though I am making progress in this fight, I realize that this disease is persistent and crafty. While I stand my ground it sends scouts to outflank me. Truthfully though, it doesn’t matter. This is my style of fight. The question has never been “can you win?” but rather “how much can you take? how long can you last?”. My gifts have always been patience, endurance and will so my answer is, “Enough. I will stand for as long as I have to to see my family taken care of and my life well-lived. You should stay defensive and try to win on points sucker, because you do not have my first knockout in you.”
When I woke up, it was 4:30 and I decided to try one more call before close of business and happened to get someone who finally understood the whole situation. She went and found the doctor’s notes I had faxed over days before and even manually entered my information so I could get my medication that night. By the next day, I was back to what serves as normal for me, thanks to a lot of patience, endurance and one angel who cared enough to leave her cubicle.
The lesson for me though is that it’s time to see my Neurologist again. I’ve said I was going to before, but I’m now four months overdue for my annual checkup. I put it off because, honestly, I’ve been doing great. The limp has gotten pretty noticeable but the tremor is pretty rare and I’ve even been getting as much as 5-6 hours of sleep with only one or two interruptions. The key is the exercise and I’ve even had some improvements in that area. It seems my coordination and speed are getting better because I was able to get my first Hang Clean yesterday (with any amount of real weight that is).
THIS IS NOT ME!…YET!
My balance has even improved within weeks of doing Walking Lunges with 165lbs on my back and nearly falling with every stride off my right leg to carrying 255lbs and having only one unsteady moment. That’s not stepping out and then bringing the feet together either. That’s one big stride directly into another. To my PwPs: It can be done! With work you can make it better so do it while you can! When things start to ramp up and those arrows blot out the Sun, call “Testudo!”, raise those shields and , as Stelios says, “Fight in the shade.”
Until next time, Live hard and stay strong.