My name is Eric Slominski and I’m just like everyone else, except I have Parkinson’s disease. This gives me a slightly different view of the world – a Parky Perspective.
I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD) at 38 years of age. Suddenly so many of the things that I had struggled with for many years made sense.
But it was a long (long) journey to finally get to that point where I had a name for the affliction that had been gradually causing my greater and greater discomfort.
I was SO bad by the time I finally received my diagnosis that I could barely hobble around on crutches.
I think the four main reasons I had to get so bad before I finally got diagnosed and ultimately much needed treatment were:
- The symptoms snuck up on me. I had Pd symptoms when I was quite young. I recall running track in high school and noticing that my foot on my affected side wouldn’t really work quite right. I always had a strange sort of lack of coordination on my affected side. I also tended to get tired easily as I recall from an early age. For example, in college I was on a mountain biking club in Blacksburg. Despite being very fit, I would always tire long before everyone else in the group. It was a bit frustrating. Weird unexplained pains in my feet and sometimes knee were common for me even back then. As I gradually got worse over the course of a couple of decades, it was a very gradual decline. That made it sort of sneak up on me a bit.
2. Parkinson’s is relatively rare in young, otherwise healthy individuals. Because I was young and especially probably because I was fairly athletic and strong nobody ever suspected I could have had Parkinson’s. Doctors visits over the years for various problems likely due to Pd were never productive. This further fed my resolve to just live with it.
3. Social pressure. Societal influences suggested that toughing it out was the right thing to do. To do otherwise was to show weakness. That, coupled with a genuine desire to be a good father and husband made me tend to not take my health as seriously as I should have.
4. I was really busy! I had a hectic job, a couple of kids ,and a wife. There were also a lot of things going on in my extended family that demanded my attention as well. I didn’t really have time to take care of myself. So I tended to put my ailments on the backburner…until I just couldn’t ignore them any longer.
So yea, when I was diagnosed it wasn’t a question of when am I going to start the medication…I was clearly bad enough to need them right away.
So what am I up to 3.5+ years later?
Career – First off, I still work full time. I’m a mechanical engineer for the Army. I get a lot of fulfillment from providing for my family. I know I have it really good. I’m very upfront about my condition and am afforded a lot of flexibility on where/when I work. I plan to work for as long as possible.
Climbing – I climb 1 -2 times per week with a Parkinson’s specific group at SportRock established by Molly Donelan. I enjoy climbing with those folks immensely. They are a support group of sorts for me.
BJJ – Recently I got inspired to start going to BJJ again. I used to go years ago and stopped when the pandemic got bad. My kids do it . I hope to work up to going 2-3 times per week. So far, my body can only handle 1x / week!
Biking – Biking is a relaxing activity that I enjoy…even at 3 in the morning! I ride 1-2 times per week year round.
Weight Lifting – I lift weights throughout the week. I mix up the intensity and the type of workout. Sometimes doing more traditional style where I do sets of 3 of 8-10 reps, sometimes doing more circuit training style where I rotate through a few different exercises to the next. I like to do AMRAPs. I like to do HIITs. I do a bit of everything. My favorite lift of course is the deadlift (1 rep max has stood at 480lb for quite a while now). I still work it regularly and I am still getting stronger but don’t have any plans to push for the big 500 lb….yet.
Blogging – Blogging is an outlet for me. I try to convey life as a Parky as truthfully and openly as I can. I’ve learned though that us Parky’s are as varied as can be so oftentimes I’m really I’m only conveying life as this Parky but that’s ok. Sometimes though I write a post that strikes a chord with a few fellow PwP and they get excited about it. That’s fun. The Blog has been morphing recently into a place for me to post some of my photography and photoshop work.
Photography – Photography is great because it’s creative, it keeps me moving, AND post processing gives me something to do when I’m “Parky”. I particularly enjoy photographing deep sky objects…Galaxies, Nebula, Supernova Remnants, star clusters. The way it works is like this:
These deep sky objects are too faint to see with the naked eye. There are too few photons getting to your eye as they are traveling astounding distances sometimes on the order of millions of light years! However, if you take a camera and you literally stare at the object for long enough you can collect enough photons to where an image of the object starts to take shape. There are a couple of challenges that need to be overcome though…the earth is rotating at a rate of roughly 24 hrs per revolution…very slowly yes but fast enough that if you set the camera up to stare at the object you will find that it is moving. This ruins your image as it “smears” or “streaks”. But a star tracker mount rotates at a rate to cancel out rotation so you can take minutes long exposures.
Fun Projects – Treehouse, bike ramps, RC car course, squirrel picnic table, raised planters, …..
Since diagnosis I’ve improved in so many ways but this insidious incurable disease still has a firm grasp on my life – and is expected to worsen as time goes on. Despite this, my wife and I still work full-time jobs to support our two boys and comfortable lifestyle in Northern Virginia. Through regular Blog posts follow along with me on my journey as my family and I try to navigate the normal challenges of family life, all the while managing my chronic illness. What’s it like to work full-time with YOPD? How long will I be able to sustain this pace of life? How will this disease change us (for better or worse) over time? I hope to provide little glimpses of my life over time to help answer these questions…and more.