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Activity wards off disease

  • Michael Lindberg of Peterborough retired from his position as Chief Medical Officer at Monadnock Community Hospital to deal with his Parkinson's diagnosis. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Michael Lindberg of Peterborough retired from his position as Chief Medical Officer at Monadnock Community Hospital to deal with his Parkinson's diagnosis. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Michael Lindberg of Peterborough retired from his position as Chief Medical Officer at Monadnock Community Hospital to deal with his Parkinson's diagnosis. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Dr. Michael Lindberg flips through a booklet of exercises he does to help deal with his Parkinson’s diagnosis. Ben Conant / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Michael Lindberg of Peterborough retired from his position as Chief Medical Officer at Monadnock Community Hospital to deal with his Parkinson's diagnosis. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Michael Lindberg of Peterborough retired from his position as Chief Medical Officer at Monadnock Community Hospital to deal with his Parkinson's diagnosis. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Michael Lindberg of Peterborough retired from his position as Chief Medical Officer at Monadnock Community Hospital to deal with his Parkinson's diagnosis. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Michael Lindberg of Peterborough recently retired to deal with his Parkinson's diagnosis but continues to stay active in other ways. Ben Conant / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Michael Lindberg of Peterborough retired from his position as Chief Medical Officer at Monadnock Community Hospital to deal with his Parkinson's diagnosis. Ben Conant / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Michael Lindberg of Peterborough retired from his position as Chief Medical Officer at Monadnock Community Hospital to deal with his Parkinson's diagnosis. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/24/2021 3:00:15 PM

Michael Lindberg knew exactly what his diagnosis would be when he walked into a neurologist office at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon 18 months ago.

He actually knew for some time that the symptoms he had been dealing with would result in a Parkinson’s diagnosis. But like so many others he didn’t want to admit it.

“Denial is a wonderful thing for us to apply to many different circumstances,” said Lindberg, the former Chief Medical Officer at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough.

But there were obvious signs associated with the debilitating disease – physical slowing, loss of smell, muscle spasms, tremors in his right hand and discoordination in his left “all of which are precursors to Parkinson’s,” Lindberg said.

“At that point I said to myself you can’t keep denying,” he said.

He went to his primary physician first at MCH and got a referral to Dartmouth.

“The physician I saw knew right away,” Lindberg said. An MRI in Concord confirmed the Parkinson’s diagnosis.

For a while, Lindberg kept his symptoms and suspicions to himself. He didn’t tell his wife Nancy, a retired family physician, but soon realized he would need her support and that of his family.

“You don’t do these things alone,” he said. “You like to think you can, but it doesn’t work that way.”

Nancy urged him to meet with his doctor.

“She was in full agreement it was time for me to seek full medical help,” Lindberg said.

Once the diagnosis was confirmed, the longtime doctor in him allowed for a quick switch in how to best approach his disease. Deciding on the best course of treatment happened quickly.

In addition to two different medications – Sinemet, which he takes multiple times a day and provides dopamine to transmitting cells and Rasagiline that assists with the transmission of dopamine between cells – the way Lindberg is attacking his Parkinson’s is through regular activity.

“Vigorous exercise is one of the few things that can help slow the progression of the disease,” Lindberg said.

He has a daily physical activity regimen that all told is an hour and a half at minimum, and usually much longer spread throughout the day. It includes a routine in the morning where for 20 to 25 minutes he does various stretches and specific exercises that are designed to build up muscle strength around key joints. He uses free weights as well, and if the weather isn’t great outside, he hits the treadmill for 30 to 60 minutes. If it’s a nice day, he will hike local trails and can be out for up to two hours.

He also has vocal exercises he works on, as one of the symptoms with Parkinson’s is the ability to speak in a loud and clear way.

“It’s amazing how much my symptoms have receded,” Lindberg said. “They’ve gotten better, far and away better.”

Lindberg has a team of rehab therapists at MCH, including physical, occupational and speech. He is grateful that the services he needs is just down the road and wants others to be aware of the extraordinary care he has been receiving.

Since his diagnosis, Lindberg has been “learning everything I could about Parkinson’s,” although he had a good base to draw from due to his work in geriatrics.

He knows that the movement disorder will lead to severe disability and death, which “is not necessarily what you want to read as you’re going along,” Lindberg said.

“But you can take a hold of the disease,” he said. And one way to do that is to be regimented in taking your medicine and exercising.

“You do everything you can to reduce the risk, but life happens. You just can’t predict,” Lindberg said.

It was one of Lindberg’s mentors in the medical field that offered him a bit of advice that went a long way.

“She reminded me you’ve got to take care of yourself,” he said. Which was not the way he had operated over his career; being a physician meant taking care of others.

“I define myself as a physician,” Lindberg said. “But you begin to realize maybe I shouldn’t define myself that way. It makes you think more about your family and things you want to do.”

He was told by his financial advisor to enjoy life while he can, front load the fun, Lindberg said. This fall, if COVID-19 restrictions allow, he and Nancy are planning a trip to Wales, where they will hike Offa’s Dyke Path from the southern coast to the Irish Sea.

Lindberg said he’d be lying if there wasn’t that question of “why me?”

“I think we all play that game in our heads,” he said. “It’s not fair, but life is not fair. This is my diagnosis.” He went through all the typical stages associated with a diagnosis like this and it’s about getting to that acceptance phase. “I like to think I’m in acceptance.”

He feels fortunate to have the support of his family and a good team of doctors and therapists around him.

Lindberg read one of Michael J. Fox’s books and there was one part that has become part of his daily life. Fox’s family would joke that he had one job: not to fall.

“Now my wife will remind me that I have one job,” Lindberg said.

Fortunately, he hasn’t had any issues with falling yet, but he knows that things will get harder, including his ability to communicate.

Lindberg is hopeful that strides will be made in the battle against Parkinson’s.

“I think we all hope something will come up to stop the progression or possibly even reverse it,” Lindberg said. “It may not benefit me, but may benefit someone down the line.”

That’s why he’s participating in a medication trial in conjunction with Dartmouth-Hitchcock that is ongoing till later this summer. And for a longtime doctor, it’s fascinating to be on the other side. Because Lindberg knows it’s all going to play a part in finding a cure for the disease. And in the meantime, his outlook is to fight and do whatever he can to live the fullest life possible.

“Having a positive attitude I think goes a long way,” Lindberg said.




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