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My Turn: Parkinson’s doesn’t have to be the end to a happy life

Robin Williams's wife said he was dealing with the early stages of Parkinson's Disease.

Robin Williams's wife said he was dealing with the early stages of Parkinson's Disease.

The media was doing okay with Robin Williams’s chronic clinical depression. Everyone has been providing the suicide hotline number and repeating the truth that depression can get better and life can feel good again.

Now, there’s news of his Parkinson’s Disease. A similar media message needs to be loud and clear to people diagnosed or who will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

It’s true that you won’t recover from Parkinson’s, but you will still find ways to enjoy life. All that makes life worth living is not behind you. We know.

Paul was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009. The less well-known cognitive impairments that can come with the disease forced him to stop working at the end of 2013. His mother had advanced Parkinson’s, and we were not naive about the implications.

Like any other major life blow, there are days you shoulder this burden, straighten with determination and go forward, and days, especially as the going gets tougher, when it feels hard – hard to be the person with the Parkinson’s and hard to be their spouse, child or network of support.

We know our road will get more difficult yet. We hazard the guess that few people have the relentlessly upbeat public attitude of Michael J. Fox, who is an admired inspiration and fierce advocate.

But even those without his resources, his disposition and his form of Parkinson’s (different for everyone) should know that it is not the end to everything you love and that gives you pleasure.

We understand clinical depression and thoughts of suicide, as Anne (and, consequently, her family and friends) went through both.

Robin Williams brought so much light to our lives. It rocks and deeply saddens us that he could no longer see light.

If it was the Parkinson’s diagnosis that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for him, don’t let his mindset determine yours.

With a Parkinson’s diagnosis and progression, and with depression, there are still going be glad times, satisfactions and laughter.

There are resources to tap for Parkinson’s as well as depression.

Try watching some old Mork and Mindy episodes or The Birdcage; these have brightened our days. Tough things happen to too many in life. Take them one day at a time.

(Anne and Paul Bonaparte-Krogh live in Concord.)

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