Just in time...Issue 16
After consulting his GP, Michael was assured the shaking was a slight resting tremor and wasn’t anything to worry about at that stage. A few months later however, while completing his bi-annual medical check-up for work, the doctor expressed concern and referred Michael for a neurologist consult. A scan confirmed the diagnosis: Michael had Parkinson’s Disease! At only 50 years old, it was a diagnosis that would change the course of his life.
The mental visual most of us conjure when thinking about Parkinson’s is of the disease having progressed to a debilitating point. For Michael however, life after the initial diagnosis was able to continue largely as normal for a few years and he continued to work. He began a comprehensive treatment regime that included medications, acupuncture, naturopathy and dietary changes. Work was also fully supportive with his manager allowing him to play an active role in deciding his ability to work.
Michael continued to work at KiwiRail for several years but at the end of 2018 shift work was becoming too much. The medication he was on was causing insomnia and he noticed he was beginning to lose concentration. At the end of 2018, after consulting with his doctor and his employer, it was decided Michael needed to stop working.
Facing a whole new chapter in their lives, Michael and Joanna decided to move out of Auckland and resettle in the South Island to start a new, lower-stress life. As a paediatric nurse, Joanna was able to continue working at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim while Michael adjusted to his new life. The early days were dark, and Michael grappled with the question of “why me?” continually. Before his diagnosis, Michael enjoyed golf, jogged often, and had even completed several half and full marathons but these seemed like far-off impossibilities as he contemplated life with Parkinson’s.
While there are still good days and bad days, the real shift in Michael’s outlook came when he attended a workshop at a Parkinson’s support group. Sitting off to the side of the room, he was struck by the fact that he was the youngest in the room but recalls fondly how welcoming the group was. “Some had it so much worse than me but they could see I was nervous sitting by myself by the window. Someone came over and sat next to me and introduced themselves. Then someone else came over and also started chatting. Eventually the bench was full, and it was shaking, and we were all laughing.”
Michael’s outlook has changed completely these days. He now lives by the motto “I may have Parkinson’s but Parkinson’s doesn’t have me” and he tries to take each day with a positive, practical approach. While another marathon is not on the cards just yet, he walks the dog daily and jokes that he can now blame a bad round of golf on Parkinson’s.
Michael’s Partners Life policy included Private Medical Cover which has ensured he has been able to access the treatment he requires from his initial scan diagnosing Parkinson’s, through to his ongoing treatment today. His policy also included Mortgage Repayment Cover which paid out a lump sum when he was no longer able to work as well as ongoing quarterly payments. This has allowed Michael and Joanna to resettle while they plan the next phase of their lives. His positive outlook has kept him forward-focused and he is busy deciding what is next on the horizon for him. Ultimately, he would like to retrain and get back to some form of work part-time and his policy will assist him with some of these costs.
Michael understands the importance of good timing and the good fortune of having put his cover in place just before being diagnosed isn’t lost on him. “I’m so glad we saw our adviser when we did and she gave us all the options for what we needed. We take out all of these different insurances for our things and ourselves, but we don’t really understand how powerful they are until we need them.”
Partners Life wishes Michael and Joanna all the best on this new chapter of their lives and would like to thank him for sharing his story with us.