By Younas Chaudhary
On June 10, 2014, my wife Bushra was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Nobody in our family had a history of this illness, and I knew nothing about it except that the late Muhammad Ali had Parkinson’s and had suffered from tremors and could barely speak. Our family was devastated, and all I could tell Bushra was that this disease impacted a person’s memory.
Seven years later, this debilitating disease has fundamentally altered our lives. Bushra could recognize us in the early years, but then her memory started fading. She had previously complained about back pains in her spine and neck and a burning sensation in her head, and she saw several orthopedic specialists and neurologists. But stiffness on left side of her body and tremors in the latter part of 2013 was diagnosed as Parkinson’s Disease, a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination.
Today, she does not remember her kids, or me as her husband, and instead calls me her “good son”. She has forgotten to speak English, and her conversations are now mostly in Urdu. She takes breakfast earlier in the morning, but when I sit down for breakfast, she asks why she has not had her breakfast yet.
What do you do on a daily basis when you are suddenly faced with such an ongoing challenge? I hope my personal experiences can shed light on someone going through a similar situation. The first thing is to be considerate and to always remember that the person suffering from this disease is helpless and has no memory. Despite having 24/7 caregivers who look after her, as her husband and primary caregiver, I have seen first-hand the quick decline of this nervous system disorder. On some days, Bushra may appear to have pain, and on others, the effects from her medication manifest rashes over her body and mood changes.
All I could do under these circumstances was transform my own life, so instead of worrying about my situation, I began to take this challenge head-on. As a first step, I reduced my working hours at my business, an unusual decision coming from a professed workaholic! Today, I spend more time with her and take care of her ongoing day-to-day needs. On a daily basis, I have tried to stay fit, both mentally and physically, doing daily exercises and yoga as well as eating healthy food. I have also started to listen to music, which I had never done earlier in my life.
This year, we are celebrating 50 years of marriage. However, after our 44th wedding anniversary, since she got diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, I have been living with an individual who has lost her memory and cannot display emotions of joy or grief.
I try to stay positive in the face of this, taking things one day at a time, with a firm belief that no two days will be alike. I have decided to man up, take responsibility, and look after her with compassion and care. My steadfast belief in continuing this has strengthened me as a human being who can take on life’s challenges with courage. I have often wondered why this disease should have come to impact our family. I believe this is a test of endurance from our Creator to see how we live up to it.
This has not been an easy task, and I know the road ahead is difficult. But I have every desire and intention to stay fully responsible to look after all her ongoing day-to-day care and needs.
When I wake up and see her in the morning, I give her a hug. I can only be thankful for all her sacrifices, love for our family, for her kids as a mother, for her broader family, and for me as a companion and wife.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, let us salute the strong mothers and the women in our lives who make our world a better place to live. Respect them and never ignore their strength, love, courage, sacrifice, and tenacity.
You can read more by purchasing my best-selling memoir “From Dirt Roads to Black Gold.” Note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this book will help people in need through my foundation, the YBC Foundation.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.