Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cartoonist Richard Thompson Dies of Parkinson's Disease

One of Thompson's best-known drawings
Proof came today that rare talent, personal graciousness, hard work, high standards, and an extraordinary sense of humor are no shield against Parkinson's Disease. Cartoonist Richard Thompson died this morning. Richard struck me as a genuinely humble man, both aware of his great gifts and unimpressed by them. He cut his own brilliant path. It was marked with restless artistry that was held together by his enormous talent, great charm and intelligence, and driven by his uncompromising high standards. 

I used to keep one of his drawings, a caricature of the late North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, up above my drawing board at work. Not as an incentive to equal or surpass it. That was clearly out of the question. I put it there to inspire me to do the best work I could do, to remind myself that creativity matters, and mainly because it was a beautiful and devastating drawing that was a joy to look at. 

Richard varied the look of his work with a love of experimentation few could match.
 When Richard was diagnosed with PD, his friend Chris Sparks formed Team Cul de Sac, the cartoonist's project against Parkinson's Disease. Chris had the idea of publishing a book of tribute drawings by other cartoonists in honor of Richard's daily comic strip, Cul de Sac. Richard, with typical generosity, invited the other artists to play with his characters, transforming them with their different styles, and imagining their own interpretations. The project made news when the reclusive Bill Watterson, one of Thompson's many cartoonist admirers, contributed a small oil of Petey, one of the main characters in the comic. It was the first artwork the public had seen from the Calvin and Hobbes creator since his retirement of his beloved strip many years before.

Watterson was not alone, he was joined by the likes of Pat Oliphant, Lynn Johnston, Jim Davis, and others, both well-known and obscure. Including the drawing below, I'm proud to say. The book, and an auction of the artwork brought in thousands of dollars for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Since its founding, Team Cul de Sac has raised over $200,000 dollars toward ending Parkinson's Disease.

Richard and I met once, and spent an afternoon talking about the things we had in common, a shared love of British master cartoonist Ronald Searle, a shared burden of Parkinson's Disease. I left his house thinking our paths would cross again, that he would be helped by brain surgery and have years of drawing ahead of him yet. Parkinson's had other plans. Richard, once a most prolific artist, seemed cut off from his muse by Parkinson's disease. The hoped-for benefits of the surgery didn't take. Despite admirable support from family and friends, his decline became steep and irreversible. He died at 58 years old. 

Parkinson's Disease was cruel to him, and cruel to those that loved him or admired his work. I was wrong about his chances with PD, but I am sure of this: His reckless line will remain a thing of beauty with few peers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Parkison's Activities for the Anchorage Area in July, Latest Shocking Report

It's high Summer, and no relief from 70 degree weather in sight! This means you can ride your bike, walk or run to the next meeting of the Anchorage Parkinson's Disease Support Group this Saturday, July16 at 3:30. Why would you want to do that? Because I'm announcing the APDSG Move it Or Else (MORE) challenge. As it becomes ever more obvious that exercise is critical to dealing as effectively as possible with PD, I'm looking for ways to create incentives to keep us moving. Incentives, that is, beyond the already established incentives, as enumerated here by the National Parkinson's Foundation: 
  1. Symptom management.  Research has shown that exercise can improve gait, balance, tremor, flexibility, grip strength and motor coordination.  Exercise such as treadmill training and biking have all been shown to benefit, as has tai chi and yoga (although more studies are needed).
  2. Possibly slowing disease progression.  There is a strong consensus among physicians and physical therapists that improved mobility decreases the risk of falls and some other complications of Parkinson’s. They agree that practicing movement — physical therapy, occupational therapy, and participating in an exercise program—improves mobility. By avoiding complications, you can avoid some of the things that can make PD worse. Beyond this, we know that people who exercise vigorously, for example by doing things like running or riding a bicycle, have fewer changes in their brains caused by aging.  Studies in animals suggest that Parkinson’s disease is also improved by exercise. Many neurologists in the NPF Center of Excellence network recommend intense exercise to their patients and also to people who are worried about getting PD because of a family connection. One neurologist told us that he tells people with a relative who has PD to exercise 300 minutes a week, with at least half of it devoted to intense running or bike riding. One Parkinson's Outcomes Project study has proven that people with PD who vigorously exercise for 2.5 hours per week show a slowed decline in quality of life, and the sooner they begin vigorous workouts after diagnosis, the better,

Wow, Pete! That's amazing!  Where can I learn more? Right here,

Or, how about here
​This, too 

I could go on, but you get my drift. So what is MORE? MORE is the acronym for Move it Or Else. The idea is simple, because I don't do complex with much elan these days. Here it is: based on the well-founded premise​ that any type of exercise you do is better for coping with your PD than no exercise, we will pass out forms on which you can list the amount of time spent exercising in minutes, and the type of exercise you did. Any form of exercise will count the same, Biking will be worth the same as walking. Pole vaulting will count the same as bowling, the idea is to spend time moving. Whomever among our support group participants completes, compiles and notes on their form the most minutes of exercise between the July meeting and the annual holiday potluck will be the winner of the grand Prize, a personally autographed copy of "My Degeneration" custom-signed to commemorate  your awesome victory. This is, of course, STRICTLY VOLUNTARY. But what have you got to lose, besides your balance? Our motto: We can do MORE!
Also, an early warning. We will have a special meeting August 18 at 5:30 pm at our usual spot in the pioneer Home. The subject will be the Duopa levodopa/carbidopa gel pump. The speaker will be Kendall Cook, a representative of Abbvie, the maker of this continuous delivery method of administering levodopa/carbidopa.
There will be no Telehealth conference next month. I assume they are catching their breath. Telehealth broadcasts will resume in September.

That's a wrap,