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Juggling the Meds and Line Dancing

Posted Sep 13 2008 6:57am

My accordion buddy, Janet, pestered me to join her in line dancing classes at the Arvada Senior Center every Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8:30-9:30 AM. This would require me driving about eight miles through rush hour traffic to dance with the seniors.

Janet and I played the accordion together for a number of years, most recently in an accordion quintet called the Silver Notes. But since brain surgery for Parkinson’s disease (PD), I hadn’t returned to my accordion playing. Janet was worried about me and was persistent. I sent Janet an email and thanked her for her concern. I informed her about the logistics of my medication schedule should I attend her line dancing classes:

6:45 AM-take meds (need 60-75 minutes for meds to go into effect and feel safe to drive)
7:45 AM or 8:00 AM-leave for class
8:30-9:30 AM-class
9:30-10:00 AM-drive home (meanwhile my meds have stopped working at 9:30 AM as they only last for 2 hours and 45 minutes, and I would feel unsafe to drive)
9:45 AM take meds
12:45 PM take meds
3:45 PM take meds (meds effective until 6:30 PM and no more meds until next morning, or I start having lots of dyskinesia a la Michael J. Fox)

Complicating this medication schedule was my eating schedule, which allowed for no eating with meds. I could only eat a half-hour to an hour before and after my medication because protein could interfere with the absorption of my medication.

I was relieved to have no further phone calls and emails from Janet. The line dancing issue seemed to be resolved.

Several days later, I picked up the phone and heard Janet’s warm greeting: “Katie Sue, how are you?” Not mentioning my email, she said there was a line dancing class for Tom and me on Tuesday nights at Grizzly Rose from 7-8 PM.

I asked her if she received my email, and she said, “Yes, ooh, and I didn’t like it.” Janet finally “got it.” I realized the importance of sharing details to help others understand my PD.

On August 15, 2006, my husband, Tom and I ventured south on I-25 to Grizzly Rose for a line dancing class. Grizzly Rose is a huge barn-like structure with a brown concrete floor except for a wooden dance floor. It features country western music and dancing with its occupancy limit of 2000, like a mini-version of Billy Bob’s in Texas which accommodates 6500. Hundreds of blue and yellow pennants hang from the ceiling advertising Crown Royal whisky. Fake stained-glass lampshades, marked by “Lite” in blue letters, cover single light bulbs. In the corner, there is a neon orange sign of “Grub” where they feature greasy onion rings. The place is dark, smelled musty, but thankfully not of smoke due to the smoking ban.

A group of about 100-150 people gathered for weekly line dancing classes. Some were seniors, and I wondered if they were the same party animals from the early morning class in Arvada. Most of the people were young to middle aged and dressed in cowboy attire as one might expect in a country-western bar. However, there were a few exceptions. One elderly woman with gray hair and a Buster Brown haircut, shuffled through every step. I winced when I saw her feet barely moving with her curved back and pained facial expression, knowing that we probably suffered from the same medical ailment. Another woman resembled an 85-year-old Dale Evans. The third woman was younger, looked like a teacher of Argentinean tango, with her glamorous slinky red dress, 5-inch spike heels and vertical feet.

Rosalie, the line dancing instructor, dressed in white shorts and cowboy boots, taught the dance “Rock Around the Clock.” It was one of the top ten line dances in the world, but I had only known it as a rock and roll song from the fifties. Throughout the class, Rosalie asked her students if they were “getting it,” and they responded by clapping if they were. When Rosalie asked if anyone needed help, the woman next to me must have noticed that I wasn’t clapping and thought that I was a slow-learner. She motioned for Rosalie to help me out. Rosalie stood in front of me and hoped that I could mimic her. I was embarrassed to be singled out. The dance seemed much too fast for the slow-moving wheels of my PD brain. I just couldn’t get the “right toe, heel, across, hold left toe, heel, across, hold” combination in the dance. Once Rosalie moved on to help another student, Tom and I made eye contact and quietly snuck out of class early.

I needed remedial help, but probably much more than Rosalie could provide.

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