The Third and Final Year

Posted: October 7, 2013By: Chris Boughton

The third and final year of my BA degree in History and English commenced last week with an induction day at college. It is 4 months since we concluded the second year and it has been a long break; too long! I have missed the distraction from Parkinson’s disease (PD) that the course provides. I have also missed the intellectual and social interaction with the other students especially now that my wife, who is a full time teacher, has finished her summer break. Lessons start this week and in this first semester we are studying East Anglian history (that’s local history) and the Spanish Civil War. We also have to get underway with our 10,000 word dissertations which are scheduled to be completed by early April. At the moment the dissertation seems a daunting task but it is early days and I need to do much more reading on my subject (The Golden Age of Satirical Prints). Hopefully we will now all fire each other up at college and get our heads down for some proper study on our individual dissertation tasks. I found it very hard to study alone during the 4-month summer break from college. I could blame this on PD, which is notorious for inflicting concentration problems on its sufferers. But the reality is, with or without PD, I probably need the structure and communal environment of college-based study. I do not think it was laziness but I certainly lost focus during the college summer break and if I am to get a good grade for my overall degree, then that focus needs to return very quickly.

PD is not going to make things any easier for me this year and I am going to have to go to even greater lengths to outwit my illness. The induction day, last week, involved me being at college for 6 hours and that was tough. In fact when I got home it took 2 hours resting on the bed to recover. I also had a pretty tough PD day the following day. My lessons in the first semester are on two consecutive days and each day will probably be around 6 hours long at college. I will therefore not have a day in between to recover fully. The second semester has lessons on Mondays and Thursdays which will be far more PD friendly. So the first semester is going to need very careful management; areas such as medication timing, food arrangements, rest breaks and car parking will be particularly important. I will also have to listen to what my body is telling me and accept that I may have to sacrifice part of the first day to protect the second day. It is 2 years since I started the degree and my PD has duly progressed another 2 years; everything is just that little bit harder now.

I mentioned in my last blog about the concern I have about sitting through, and writing for, 3 hours in three different exams and as yet I have no solution to that problem. My consultant has offered to write to the college requesting that I be allowed to split the exams but I want to avoid this if at all possible. I know I am allowed reasonable adjustment for my disability but wherever possible I want to be treated the same as the other students. But equally I do not want to fail my exams due to my inability to keep writing, or typing, for 3 hours when the information needed is sitting in my brain waiting to come out! It is something that I urgently need to discuss with the college disabilities adviser. The first exam is not until early January but, as it is bothering me, it needs dealing with or it is likely to affect the performance of my PD medication, as undo stress tends to do with sufferers of PD.

But overall I am very fortunate. I have a course that I really enjoy, I have a class of very helpful and friendly fellow students and it continues to be a wonderful distraction from PD and all that comes with it after 10 increasingly difficult years.

Chris Boughton

Chris Boughton

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in February 2004 at the age of 51 having experienced undiagnosed symptoms for at least 4 years prior to that. My wife and I have five adult children and three grandchildren. We are fortunate in that we live in a lovely rural part of the east of England, with King’s Forest situated nearby for my much needed, therapeutic dog walks. I spent most of my working life involved in electronic, mechanical manufacturing management within the Worldwide Broadcasting industry and I am extremely lucky to have travelled extensively through my work. Since I was diagnosed I have dedicated much of my time to researching all aspects of PD and trying to both support others with this illness and raise the profile of PD. As well as writing a blog on this website, I administer an internet patient forum for people with PD which I set up in September 2008 and it currently has over 150 members. I also administer the forum’s Facebook, Friends Reunited and Twitter pages. My younger son recently ran in a half marathon race to raise funds for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust. I am currently studying for a BA (Hons) in English and History as a mature student.

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