Working through Parkinson’s

(First posted February, 2021.)

It’s no secret, anyone who has spent time with me in the last 10 years knows I have Parkinson’s, but I’ve never exactly broadcasted the fact. The attached images were among the last drawings I did before Parkinson’s symptoms forced me to give up drawing. My right hand was tremoring so badly I was forced to do this series of drawings left handed. In the years that followed I continued to work, going all digital, left handed.

I was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s in early 2011, but in the back of my head I had known as early as 2007. I was in denial. In 2011 there was no definitive test to diagnose PD. The doctor wanted to put me on the drugs, if they were effective that would verify the diagnosis. I objected to this method and, having heard and read very scary things about the PD drugs side effects, over the next 8 years I tried virtually every alternative treatment (there are a lot of them). While many of these treatments seemed promising  and some gave me brief periods of relief, none of them worked long term. I and, by extension, my family (particularly Zodia), had some really rough stretches. I looked into ultrasound therapy at Stanford and  in Switzerland - and for the first time started to consider Deep Brain Stimulation. I was ready to try anything.

At the beginning of 2020 I was referred to a new Neurologist, a Parkinson’s specialist. I brought up the ultrasound treatment available in Switzerland. Unlike the Stanford surgeons, she wasn’t dismissive and suspicious about the treatment, but she reminded me that while noninvasive it was still a surgery and could not be undone. She suggested I try the major PD drugs Carbidopa/Levadopa and see how that goes before jumping to surgery. She assured me the scary things I had always heard about the side effects and withdrawal symptoms were no longer true. So I got on board.

As it turns out I am a poster boy for these drugs, they treat my symptoms so effectively. This past year I have physically felt better than I have in 10 years. I started drawing again (right handed!) last year. Nervous about it, I started with just the thumbnail drawings of my comic pages, finishing them digitally. Over the past week I have done my first fully hand drawn illustration in 8 years. I don’t think my hand tremored once.

I have decided to give 25% of profits of my works affected by PD to PD charities. First up, is an organization in Colorado called The Unsteady Hand. “Inspiration Grants empower people with Parkinson’s Disease to engage their inner artist. These “micro-grants” cover the cost of art courses and high-quality supplies. Participants may elect to explore their creative side on their own or take classes in their community. Inspiration Grants support endeavors of the visual arts, including watercolor, photography, bookbinding, ceramics, or whatever strikes their fancy.”

This series was commissioned for use in the Viral Marketing campaign of the movie I, FRANKENSTEIN. I hope you will consider purchasing these originals (there are at least 3 or 4 more in the series - I just need to find them!). You’ll get a nice piece of original art while supporting a good cause.