Diann Shaddox Foundation for Essential Tremor
My Life With Essential Tremor (ET)
My experience with ET started with my Mother. She shook terribly in her later life, barely able to get food into her mouth. Her doctor told her that she suffered from a malady called, in those days, Familial Tremor. But to my knowledge she was never treated for it. I remember Mom being very self conscious of her tremor and worked hard to hide it. She did all she could to avoid social settings and/or eating out.
My tremor became noticeable when I was in my very early twenties as I finished college and entered the U.S. Navy. My wife noticed, while we were first dating, that I shook slightly. But only later did she tell me that she "just thought she made me nervous." That became the story of my younger years, especially as a Navy Pilot. And naturally, with the jolt of adrenalin that surges through your body when flying high performance aircraft, my tremor frequently was exacerbated. I found it very helpful for me, and my 'audience,' to explain to them about my tremor, even though I didn't know many of the medical details at the time, just how it affected me. By talking about it, attempting to explain that I wasn't as nervous as I might appear, frequently joking that I was not 'out partying all night,' I was better able to defuse the embarrassment for myself and my associates.
Now let's fast forward to my later years. As my tremor worsened with age, I found it more intrusive to my daily living. I finally saw a neurologist in my mid-forties and was 'offically' diagnosed with Essential Tremor and put on Inderal. Inderal, and the many other medications my doctors prescribed for me over the years, either had unacceptable side effects and/or did little to control the tremor. As I turned 60 my tremor was preventing me from doing many of the things I love the most in life, like eating soup, taking pictures, etc. It was then that I started seriously researching what ET was all about.
During my research, I soon received a postcard announcing a study at the UCSF Hospital in San Francisco. This study involved FDA approval of a new device that could control ET using Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). After much more research on medications and their efficacy, or lack thereof, I called and asked for an appointment at the UCSF Movement Disorders Clinic. After a most thorough interview and examination, the doctors at UCSF determined that I was a candidate for the surgery.
In the two years since my DBS surgery, I have experienced complete control of my tremor and the total restoration of my quality of life. I can eat soup again!! And I can do so without slopping it all over my shirt. I can drink from a glass without spilling. I can read my own writing. I can shave without cutting myself!
Hopefully, with the recent passage of the Congressional legislation that names March as ET Awareness Month, funding for research for new medications and devices, such as mine, will alleviate the symptoms of ET for the millions of other sufferers.
By the way: here is a sample of my handwriting with my DBS device turned on, followed by a sample of my handwriting with my device turned off.
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