I Have a Dream

By Jo Collinge

This blog was originally posted in February 2011 shortly after I took early retirement due to ill health from a career in banking spanning 23 years. It is one of my personal favourites, and I hope you enjoy it too…..

Having woken at 3:00 am in pain with my neck and shoulders, I have found it impossible to get back to sleep, and after an hour of tossing and turning have decided to get up and write about something that has been on my “blog log” (where I keep a record of my ideas) for quite a few weeks. The reason for my inability to get back to sleep is not just pain (although that has a lot to do with it sadly), but also worry over my younger daughter. It has been a really tough week for the Collinge family, as she was physically attacked by another child, for the third time, and we have found it necessary to remove her to another school for her own personal safety. I am only thankful there was no permanent physical injury done. But to say that I am disappointed that we have had to take such action is an understatement and it was something my elder daughter, husband and I could have well done without.

But on to other things……..the title of this blog! And I apologise if I have misled you. I am not going to talk about Martin Luther King on this occasion, but in a future blog I promise I will do and about how he has inspired generations.

I have to admit, my absolute favourite film of all time is “Mamma Mia” – I absolutely and utterly love it! For me, it is complete escapism to a world where the sun shines constantly, the sea looks really inviting and love conquers all! (Apologies for going “overboard” on the superlatives – I really can’t help it!) Whenever I need cheering up, out comes the DVD from its box, on goes the TV, and I spend a very happy couple of hours in another world. As a result we, as in my daughters and I, play Abba in the car whenever we’re on a journey somewhere (I cannot speak for my husband here and I don’t think he would be particularly pleased if I did). One of my favourite songs on that CD by Abba is “I have a Dream”. For me, the first two verses especially strike a chord, and in particular the lines:

I have a dream, a fantasy To help me through reality And my destination makes it worth the while Pushing through the darkness still another mile

I have a dream, as I’m sure anybody with a chronic degenerative illness has. That dream is to wake up and find that it was a dream after all. That dream is to be cured, to not wake up at 3:00 in the morning in pain, to not suffer the indignity of spilling a cup of coffee everywhere in a cafe owing to tremors, to being able to pack away my shopping easily without having to ask for help. That dream is to not having to constantly be aware that I need to know what the time is so that I don’t forget to take the next tranche of meds. That dream is to go back to the career I once had in banking rather than having a discussion I would rather not have had with my consultant about deep brain surgery.

But the reality is that I do have a chronic illness, the reality is that it is degenerative, and the reality is that I did have that discussion with my consultant a few weeks ago I  would rather not have had. I think I have pretty much accepted Parkinson’s in my life and that it may well be here for good, but every once in a while I get pulled up short – and this happened about 10 days ago when during a conversation with my husband about our future plans, I reminded him I was going to be ill for the rest of my life, be it the next 5, 10 or 30 years. It really made me stop and think, and once again I felt the raw edge of the reality that I may never be cured.

But it is also the reality that I may be cured that pushes me on through the darkness of Parkinson’s, through yet another mile. I am a determined person, and Parkinson’s has made me ever more determined to do what I can to raise awareness of this disease, and to raise funds to go towards the destination of finding a cure. I am in training, and I have two goals – one physical, the other mental. 

The physical goal is to walk the Kennet and Avon canal end to end to raise as much money as I can for Parkinson’s research – all 87 miles in just 5 days. (Good grief, I must be mad……) I would love to take the credit for the idea, but credit has to go totally to one of my book group buddies who was totally inspired by Tom Isaacs book “Shake Well Before Use” (my suggestion for the 2010 read). My friend is keen to raise money for research into another chronic illness, Diabetes, which her husband and son both have. As a result, I find myself in the local gym two to three times a week (I try to get there four times a week, but haven’t succeeded so far), and in between times I am on that Wii Fit, pushing my body through yet another mile, to improve my muscle tone as well as my mental stamina. As you have probably guessed by now, my mental goal with the walk is to tell myself, constantly, that I can do it and I will do it – failure is not an option.

But there is a longer term goal here as well – not only to do what I can to delay the inevitable physically, but to also bolster up my mental stamina to walk the Parkinson’s walk in the future without fear or dread, to face it with determination, to face it with courage, and above all to face it with a sense of humour. As I said, failure is not an option.

On that “note”, I’ll leave you with the end verse of the song I love to sing…….

I believe in angels Something good in everything I see I believe in angels When I know the time is right for me I’ll cross the stream – I have a dream I’ll cross the stream – I have a dream

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