We've all heard the riddle: A lost hiker caught by surprise with a fierce winter storm stumbles into an old trappers cabin. It is cold and light is fading fast. The freezing hiker looks around the interior and sees three items that could save his life: an oil lantern, a candle, and an old wood burning stove. There is a single matchstick on the table, wrapped in foil and protected from the elements. Which do you light first?
You, or your loved one, have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD) and feel trapped and overwhelmed. You want to fight back, but you feel alone. Isolation is a killer that can dim your light and leave you frozen out of the life you knew. There is a way to help yourself and millions of others like you: we must come together in a safe and brave space. We must commit ourselves to this heroic journey, doing our part to change what we can and letting go of the parts we can't. We must declare that today's the day. Day One, if you will. This is the day we escape from the Parkinson's Prison via the Hero's Journey.
Your journey with PD will be both uniquely your own, as it doesn't affect any two people the same way, and familiar to others as the humanity of our stories shines through and connects us all. One of the strongest ways you can fight back is by exploring, discovering and sharing your story. But the true light may lie in understanding how your story is connected to others. When we listen and encourage others' journeys while simultaneously sharing our own, we are immediately met in the sacred space of storytelling, something we've been doing as a species since we first drew in breath. When we step out of the shadows and live our journeys out loud, with visibility and vulnerability, we strike the match of courage that lights not only our paths, but the paths of those around us.
So which is first? The oil lantern, the candle or the old wood burning stove? It's the matchstick, of course. Nothing else can become lit until you first strike the match. Let this matchstick be the fire that lights the fuse for your story. Your fight. Your truth. This is not a mission impossible. The path is there and, along with those who have traveled before you, it can be negotiated. This class, Day One: The Parkinson's Prison and the Hero's Journey to Escape!, is the fuse that can destroy the walls that have kept us locked in isolation. Please consider using your matchstick to light this fuse and set us all on our journey.
- Perry Heilman and Sherpa Andy