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“Talkin’ ’bout my generation. ” The Who.
Dunlap-Shohl was an editorial cartoonist for 25 years before he retired to battle Parkinson’s Disease pretty much full time, blogging and writing this informational and inspirational memoir. I personally know no one with PD, but I saw this at my library and also saw it was a publication out of a new series, Graphic Medicine, which is an attempt to create intimate and personal portraitist/stories of disease that clinical research can’t quite capture. Dunlap
Parkinson’s disease is a rough diagnosis at any age, but a particularly cruel one when the onset is young. My Degeneration is a graphic memoir of life after Parkinson’s by Peter Dunlap-Shohl who was diagnosed at the age of 42, the same age at which my husband was diagnosed. It is funny, honest, ironic, and about as smart a book as I’ve ever read about the disease (and I may have read them all during the past 23 years of living with Mr. Parkinson). Best of all, Dunlap-Shohl tells his story with e
The experience of Parkinson’s is very different from the medical community’s account of the disease. For example, no one tells you about the crazy, vivid dreams you are going to have, dreams you will often act out by yelling, thrashing, and occasionally punching. Dunlap-Shohl literally provides pictures of it all, including the spouse moving to the couch for her own safety. Been there. Done that.
In a chapter entitled “moping and Coping,” the author engages his wife in a conversation about suicide, because why would you not want to avoid “becoming a decrepit, hollow ruin, unable to walk or talk?” This conversation will be very familiar to anyone close to a Parkinson’s diagnosis. It’s Step One out of the initial pity party and toward a full life with the disease.
My Degeneration is not a depressing book because Dunlap-Shohl has faced the monster and learned to cohabit a pretty happy lifestyle. A talented political cartoonist for the Anchorage Daily News for twenty-five years, he continues to be an active blogger, ride a three-wheeled recumbent badass trike down wooded trails in all weather, and manage Mr. Parkinson reasonably well.
People diagnosed with Parkinson’s have wildly varied responses. Some become depressed and hopeless; they don’t live long. Most become angry for at least a while. And some, like Dunlap-Shohl become triumphant and wise. So this is a beautiful, witty book, even if you’ve never had contact with someone with Parkinson’s disease. But if you have, this book is essential to understanding their lives.
I found this fascinating. Dunlap-Shohl, though his personal experiences, gives a picture of the current state of knowledge of Parkinson’s and its treatment. This is a measured, nuanced book. He doesn’t wallow in self-pity; nor does he view everything through rose-colored glasses and saccharine platitudes. Given the length of time he’s lived with the disease, this shouldn’t be surprising. Thanks to current understanding and treatment, Parkinson’s patients’ life expectancy is right up there with e