The idea of eventually changing careers does not bother me in the least because I’ve done it before and I know it’s entirely possible. Music is a wonderful thing, but there will still be concerts to attend and recordings to listen to, so it’s not like I would be without music. There are so many other interesting things to do and, if I’m not too disabled, I’m going to have a great time doing them. If I am too disabled, then I’m still going to find something to do with my brain to keep it busy. I’ve thought about this a lot because there will be a point at which I can’t play anymore. I do not want to be known as ‘The horn player with Parkinson’s’. I want to be known as a good horn player––with no conditions attached.
I don’t want to let Parkinson’s define me. I think that is important and it probably applies to any disease that someone may be fighting. Don’t let the disease define you. I have a student whose father has very severe Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and when I think of his life being actually physically cut short by MS, it reminds me that there are a lot worse things than having Parkinson’s. Which is not to say that Parkinson’s is great because it isn’t at all. But you can live with Parkinson’s. You can keep going for a long time––you can do the same things you were doing before. You just notice that you’re not feeling as tiptop as you were before you had symptoms.
If you want your life to be all that it can be, then don’t dwell on the fact that you have Parkinson’s but instead dwell on the fact that, until you are really disabled, you should make the most out of your life. Parkinson’s was a wake-up call telling me to make the absolute most out of my time. That’s the thing, isn’t it? No matter who you are or what you’re diagnosed with, or even if you are never diagnosed with anything, you should treasure life and be fully engaged in it.
BIO: Bill Barnewitz was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2001. He was the principal horn player with the Milwaukee Symphony and the Santa Fe Opera orchestra. Bill has recently produced a horn and chamber music CD that includes other instruments and singers, too. All the proceeds are going to go to Parkinson’s research and education. URL: http://www.survivingadversity.com Reprinted with permission from Surviving Adversity--living with Parkinson's disease. Long Version of Profile: Available for free at http://www.survivingadversity.com