I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2004. I was the bandleader of a New York-based party band at the time. We were performing at a wedding one night, and toward the end of the evening, I couldn’t move my fingers. I was trying to lead the band for the hora, but I couldn’t move my fingers. I had been working in the industry for 20 years, and that never happened before. I knew something was wrong.
When I got home, I told my wife. We started going to doctors. A few weeks later, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
When I got the diagnosis, I was in shock. My mother also had the disease, but I didn’t really know anything about it. I didn’t realize how much pain she was in.
I didn’t take me too long to accept my diagnosis. I had no choice. You can’t ignore it, so you have to accept it and learn to live with it.
I had always said to enjoy life as much as possible. I concentrated on the things I could do and not on what I couldn’t. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I stopped working and started recording music in my studio. Not having to go to work allowed me that time. I recorded all the songs I ever wanted to record — at least 100 of them. That was my therapy, and it kept me going.
Family is very important to me, so I also went on many vacations with my wife and three daughters. We visited many places, and I did everything I could, to a degree. I hiked, I rode horses, I rafted. I did what was good for me; I wasn’t concerned about what was good for the disease. In the early days, it was easier to do those things. Now it’s much harder because of the dyskinesia. I can’t control a lot of my movements, and I have a hard time speaking clearly.
If you’re reading this letter and you’ve recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, be strong and try to accept it. Focus on the positive things in your life and what makes you feel good. Of course, it’s easier said than done. There will be hard days. The disease is unpredictable. Some days you can walk and some days you can’t. Every day is different.
I try not to get frustrated or go to a place of sadness. When I find myself in a bad mood, I’ll do whatever I can to get out of it. I think of the good things, and I try to stay busy! Even if I’m doing nothing, I’m busy doing nothing.
If you want good things to happen, you have to make them happen. I look at the good things in my life. I have a loving family and a lot of friends. I’m lucky to have so many people to support me. I’m grateful for them. Parkinson’s is hard for caregivers too, and I appreciate everything my loved ones have done for me.
There are still many places I want to see, and I plan on seeing as much of the world as I can. I want to keep on doing what I’ve been doing. I feel blessed that I’ve been able to do so much, and I hope the same for all of you. You are not your disease.
Isaac Aroshas was born in Israel and moved to New York City in 1973 to pursue a career in entertainment. He founded The Isaac Orchestra, of which he was the bandleader. Over the span of 20 years, they performed at many weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and high-end events. He now lives in Boca Raton, Florida with his Wife, Abbe and their dachshund, Smokey Moe.