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Monday, April 24, 2017

From pity to painting: After Parkinson’s diagnosis, Millbury man puts brush in left hand

April 23, 2017   By Kim Ring 

MILLBURY - His wife was the first one to know something was wrong.
Michael Wackell Sr.’s legs would shake so much at night that Diane Wackell would awaken from a sound sleep while he kept dozing. When he saw a neurologist, he was told he had non-essential tremors that could precede Parkinson’s disease, though he didn’t have the disease and the tremors didn’t mean he was necessarily get it. But they also didn’t mean he wouldn’t.
About a decade later, he received the bad news.
“I got the official diagnosis (of Parkinson’s disease) in 2012,” he said, adding that he was about 45 years old when the symptoms started. He’s 56 years old now.
“I was totally blown away,” he said. His healthy lifestyle as an avid outdoorsman had him thinking the diagnosis was impossible. “I was like, ‘This can’t happen to me, this can’t happen to me.’ ”
For the first three months, he refused treatment. He could barely work at his business, M. Wackell Interior Renovations. He went thru a “pity period” and grappled with what this progressive disease would mean for him while his family researched treatments and outcomes, and worried about him. Eventually, he realized he needed treatment and he also needed to change his attitude.
“I’m not going to let this get to me,” he said. Parkinson’s wasn’t going to be who he was.
Then, during a bad winter a few years ago when business was slow, he got sick of sitting around watching the snow pile up.
“It was that lousy winter all New Englanders will remember where the snow just kept coming and coming, and I got tired of sitting in the house watching TV,” he said. “I went up to Michael’s and I bought myself a watercolor set, a kid’s Crayola watercolor set, and I painted my wife a Valentine’s card. And much to my surprise I said, ‘Well, I can paint.’ ”
His daughter, Maegan Jordan, who studied art in college, was also pleasantly surprised. She had warned him that watercolor is one of the most difficult mediums an artist can work in, and yet he was undaunted.
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