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Groucho Marx and the Art of Parkinson’s Care


Marc Sherman is a 54 year old attorney who lives in Forrest Hills, NY. He describes himself as I “someone who loved childhood, and in a sense, never really left it.”

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2006 (an event that Marc says “should have caused me to leave childhood and become an adult,” Marc Sherman puts his legal expertise to work for The People with Parkinson’s Advisory Council of the National Parkinson’s Foundation. Marc is also the host of the Living with PD blog where he discusses his experiences living with Parkinson’s, often through witty parodies…

Forget the Mayo Brothers… Marc turned instead to The Marx Brothers for their diagostic and clinical expertise in treating his Parkinson’s disease, as you’ll read in his latest post:

A Night At The Doctors


It may have taken Parkinson’s for me to realize how much I loved my life, and how lucky I am.

The first signs were micrographia (small writing). My handwriting became progressively smaller, and more and more illegible. Then I had difficulty grasping fine objects, such as a pen or a fork. My right leg would be uncomfortable when I sat for long periods of time.

I went to five Doctors before it was finally diagnosed. Let’s call these Doctors, Dr. Gummo, Dr. Zeppo, Dr. Chico, Dr. Harpo and finally Dr. Groucho.

The first Doctor was my GP, Dr. Chico.

Dr. Chico: So Whatsa mattta?

Marc: It’s my handwriting Doc. It’s getting small.

Dr. Chico: Write a me something.

So I proceed to write the entire “Why a Duck” routine.

Dr. Chico: I can’t a read a that.

Marc: See I told you that it’s too small.

Dr. Chico:  No I just can’t a read. I’m a gonna send you to my Brother Dr. Gummo. But first you pay a the bill. Let’s a see. Yesterday we no see you, that’s three hundred dollars. Today we examine you…

Marc: That’s One Hundred that you owe me.

Dr. Chico: I bet I’m a gonna lose on the deal.

Dr. Gummo, was a renowned hand surgeon, who confirmed that I have two hands. He sent me to Dr. Zeppo.

Dr. Zeppo, an orthopedist, didn’t like the way his brothers were treating him in the practice, so after my short visit he quit. But before he quit he sent me to Dr. Harpo.

Marc: Doctor, I’m having trouble with my hand. If you would stop chasing the nurse and take a look, I’d appreciate it.

Dr. Harpo: Honk!

Dr. Harpo proceeds to kick me in the behind, pick my pocket, and play the harp for ten minutes. Finally Dr. Harpo ordered an MRI of my brain. Before anyone else can say this, I’ll beat you to the punch, they found nothing. So he sent me to a Parkinson’s specialist, initially just to eliminate Parkinson’s as the cause of my problems.

After using his cigar for light, and asking me how I did in the Kentucky Derby, the specialist, Dr. Groucho was ready to address the issue.

Dr. Groucho: You have PD. Now isn’t is a PD that you didn’t come to see me sooner.

He then gave me a cube of sugar, some horse pills and sent me galloping away.

Dr. Groucho is still my Doctor (and he is a charming man, despite the nickname that I have laid upon him here). He recognized the classic signs of early Parkinson’s. The masked face, walking with the arm limp by my side, difficulty rising from a seat. Parkinson’s commonly hits one side. Mine hit my right side. Had it hit my left side, I’m not sure that we’d have known it for years.

Along with regular visits and prescriptions, he sent me to physical therapy. Two of my therapists, have become my friends. These are special people. They kick my butt (when I show up), they don’t believe my bull, and the genuinely care. I happy to consider them friends.

My colleagues (those that know) and my ex-office mates have been great. I had to move my office into my home. My friends allow me to use their office, they give me overflow work, and often wait around to drive me to the train. My ex-officemates, when they moved, took my name with them.

They also gave me keys to the new office and make me feel like I’m still at home. Anybody who knows me, knows that I love to talk, I love to socialize. In many ways these friends have kept me alive.

My wife, is amazing. She is a geriatric Physician, so she sees this from a different prospectus that I do. I look at it as an inconvenience not an illness. So where she, for my own benefit, tries to inject logic into my plans, I try to live my life, pretty much as I always have.

She saw the opportunity to purchase a second apartment in our building, did so, and set me up on the seventeenth floor with an office. I never meet clients there, but on days that I don’t have to see clients, my commute is 6 floors by elevator. She also picks me up at the train in inclement weather, and mostly puts up with me. You see, I’m not the easiest patient.

I don’t want to be a patient.

Since I don’t have a typical Parkinsonian tremor, most people are unaware of the affliction. Ergo, I often refuse to acknowledge it. I acknowledge no reason why I still can’t do the things that I’ve always loved. I always took long walks. Although I have fallen three times, I don’t completely accept that these incidents are Parkinson’s related. The first time I slipped on the ice. The next two times, I fell over my own, riverboat like, feet.

Parkinson’s patients sometimes act out their dreams. All of my dreams are sports related. I’ve jumped in bed trying to spike a volleyball. I’ve hit my hands against the headboard blocking a shot, playing basketball. On five different occasions, I’ve fallen out of bed. The most recent time, I was dreaming that I was sliding into first base. I woke up, unhurt, but angry at myself. There is no reason to ever slide into first base. Furthermore, anybody who knows me, knows that I move much to slowly to make a play that close. I guess that my wife and I are lucky that I never liked boxing.

My disease has progressed very slowly. Although I did initially get depressed and feel sorry for myself, I soon realized that that was a waste of valuable time. In many ways, now six years into my journey, I may be more content with life than I ever was before.

A college buddy of mine, mentioned that he had heard that I was sick. I reacted with vitriol, “I am not sick.” Everybody has problems, but I have learned to count my blessings.

Now you may believe that part of this story is fictional and my object to the innuendo.

But that’s just like I’ve always said, “Love flies out of your door, when money comes innuendo.”

((Published with the permission of Marc Sherman)