The Other Side of the Fence

Parkinson’s disease … diagnosis, symptoms, medicines … standard fare and easy to talk about. But for me and I suspect many others, there is much more to the story. Each of us has our own burdens when it comes to this disease … secrets, worry, loneliness. I now admit that this is a disease that I have had to get my head wrapped around … perhaps you have had as well. This blog will begin with letters I have written myself and to various people and for a variety of reasons but they all represent part of the journey that my head and my heart have taken since my diagnosis.

July 11, 2008,
I am 49 years old. 

I can knit a sweater; I converted to Judaism and made a Bat Mitzvah; I am now a certified mohel*. 

When I was 42 years old I ran a marathon**; I can climb a rock wall and am trained to belay.
I have delivered countless babies; I am a surgeon.
I love to travel and when I do I take lots of pictures which I put into great albums.
I love to take walks and although I hate to work out, I do it anyway. 

I have been married for almost 20 yrs; I am a mom to three daughters. 

I have been to Scotland, England, France, Israel, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Spain & Ecuador. 

I like to read. 

My patients tell me that I am often a great comfort to them during difficult medical challenges. 

“I think you have Parkinson’s disease.” Time 00.000 

26 seconds: Stunned silence.
26 heartbeats: Took longer than usual because I am sure that my heart stopped briefly.
26 tears: The first of many that would fill a bucket.
26 steps:  Took me as far as the secretary who asked me for my $20 co-pay.
26 minutes: I sit 
at the pharmacy alone as I wait for my new prescription. 

THIS is my new marathon. Life starts from this time clock because now I will never see it the same. I have always considered myself a lucky person and that my accomplishments would be lovingly enumerated when I was old … over 90, because anything less is not old. But now I will measure not what I did but what I will do. I will not ‘mind wander’ to the end of my life but will focus on and be grateful for each small marathon I am able to finish now.


*a person in the Jewish faith who performs ritual circumcisions on newborn baby boys.
**twenty six……yes 26! miles.

Posted in Dr. Karen Jaffe, For Clients.

Dr. Karen Jaffe

Karen Jaffe is a retired Ob/Gyn who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at age 49. She practiced medicine for 25 years and cared for countless women and their babies. Her current experience as a patient has given her a new perspective on medical care, now from the other side of the patient fence.