The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 14th, 2014
Will I be able to work until I’m 70?"
Those were my first words when I learned in 2012, at age 50, that I
had Parkinson’s disease. I had not planned for that question to pop out
of my mouth, but it did. Perhaps I was worried about money: The size of
my retirement account makes early retirement seem implausible.
But mainly I think I asked that question because work, for better or
worse, has become central to my identity. The idea that my career as a
historian would end soon, that I would need to find another way to
occupy my time, felt truly disturbing.
I was pleased and surprised when my neurologist at the Mayo Clinic
confidently assured me that I could continue to work for the next couple
of decades. He then gave me a good, science-based pep talk. He
discussed some misconceptions about the disease and some hopeful
research developments. A professor and researcher himself, he mentioned
some conflicting views about Parkinson’s that have led to contentious
debate at recent medical conferences.