This is a much needed update to the blog.
In 2007, I was given the news that I had more in common with Michael J. Fox than just being born and raised in Canada. I first noticed minor symptoms (such as a mild hand tremor) of an imminent medical problem as early as 2001. At the time I was a member of a country band in Alberta and was known on stage as Doc Holiday. The band leader was good at creating stage names; mine came from being the only musician he knew who had a Ph.D. in Materials Physics and a doctorate in holidays. It was an exaggeration because I don’t have a doctorate in holidays; I only act as if I do. Early in 2002, I purchased my first midi accordion and was coined Doc Holiday and his elektrodion. I played in this and other bands until 2006. Between Parkinson’s disease and escalating depression, I had to give up playing music and was not able to function as a scientist any longer.
It took some time, along with considerable love and caring from my wife, before this downhill spiral started to turn around. The first step was the synchronistic discovery of some herbal products, that when used in conjunction with the prescription medication I was taking, lowered my mental stress level and allowed the depression to lift. ( www.ParkinsonsRelief.com) Coincidentally we started going to southern Arizona for the winter to avoid the wet coastal weather of Vancouver Island. This helped reduce the depression also.
By educating myself about this disease I learned that to alleviate some of its symptoms, I needed an hour a day of sweat generating exercise, to eat healthy with lots of vegetables and very little red meat, and to drink a lot of water. How much of this is responsible for allowing me to get well enough to join a country band in Arizona about three years ago, I can’t say for sure. Last year we did about two dozen gigs over the nearly five months we were down south. I have also able to engage in scientific pursuits again, mostly in the area of numerical modelling of non-linear differential equations, and have authored and co-authored several papers with group of physicists in Europe (www.AIAS.us ).
This summer, I started a family band on Vancouver Island called Tarnished Silver. My brother plays the guitar and is the lead male vocalist, Heather, a family friend is the lead female vocalist, my son Andrew plays back up and rhythm guitar, and I play a Roland FR-7x accordion (www.roland.ca ), a five string banjo, and sing harmony. The band is backed with a Roland Bk-7m arranger (www.roland.ca ) which is primarily used as a drummer. We recently played at my mother’s 90th birthday celebration, and did a fundraising concert at a local church.
As a kid I took accordion lessons starting at age twelve. By fifteen, I had progressed as far as the music school I went to could teach me. Having to change music schools, going into high school, and probably the fact that that the accordion was not cool at the time, prompted me to quit music lessons.
Since purchasing the new Roland accordion about a year ago, I have started to conscientiously practice music again, averaging well over an hour daily. When I quit lessons fifty years ago I was just starting to learn the “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsakov. I hope to have this piece mastered before we head south again in the fall. Between exercise, music practice, and scientific commitments, I have no time for boredom. I do make sure to take time to rest; this is also vital. The neurologist I go to is amazed with how well I am doing and insists that I keep it up.
I play the banjo and mandolin for fun although my wife says you can’t tell because apparently I don’t crack a smile when doing a fast banjo lick. Besides fun, the accordion however is therapy. The drill of doing scales and the repetitiveness of learning a difficult piece seems to cement pathways in my brain that want to disappear. I notice the difference if I miss a couple of days practice. I also make sure that every so often, I play in a manner that flushes emotions, especially if they are troubling. This usually results in a streak of slow waltzes with complex chord changes that lasts an hour or more. During this time I quite often shed a tear or two. When I stop playing, whatever I was dealing with seems to have been resolved because I feel much better.
I am always on the lookout for activities and healthful products that aid in my battle against Parkinson’s disease and often share my story with those who will lend an ear. My wife has found a new product ( www.PillsBeGone.zurvita.com ) which she is excited about and claims will help me even more. I guess I am going to be guinea pig for a couple of months. She is also into quilting which means that there are bits of fabric everywhere. I suppose this or musical instruments; what can I say.