Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Brian Grant Speaks Out
Brian Grant, who recently came forward to admit he's battling early onset Parkinson's disease, spoke to Trail Blazers staff and media at the Rose Garden today with his wife Gina. Grant, his left hand shaking, discussed his diagnosis, the depression that preceded it, treatment and the freedom he's found in coming to terms with the disease.
Below are some of the things Grant had to say this afternoon. Hopefully it will help you better understand Brian's condition and his mindset as he fights to take control of his affliction.
"Let me start off by saying I don’t have to worry about (the tremor) now. You know what it is. I ain’t going to worry about the tremor. I’m a little nervous right now.
"We’re happy to be back in Portland. I had my best years in the NBA here. It was a family when I played here. I see a lot of faces that I remember from the time that I played here. A lot of new faces. Portland has always been home to me ever since we left and it was always my mission and our mission to get back to Portland in some point in time to raise our children in this community. We’re just really, really happy to be back. Really, really happy to be reconnected with the organization. Definitely happy to see the direction the organization has gone in.
"With this, the Parkinson’s and everything, I’ve never been one to turn away from help. From the time that I set down with the team and told them about the Parkinson’s, the whole organization has stepped out in full force to try and help in any way they could. I appreciate it, my wife appreciates it.
"It’s really good to come see everybody out here. This isn’t a bad time in my life. It’s actually a very, very good time. The bad time was the past seven months. When I went out on the court that night at Kevin Duckworth’s thing, just trying to hide everything. I’ve been in hiding for seven months. I’m finally out. I can finally live and be free.
"God has shown me what my mission is now. I’ve been asking him for the past two and a half years since I retired, ‘What am I going to do?’ Not that there wasn’t things for me to do, but what am I going to do? I don’t know what’s going on with me. Now I know what my mission is."
"When the tremor first came on it was probably about... I noticed it a little bit right after I retired but it wasn’t enough to make me think that I had a tremor. Sometimes as an athlete, especially when your body is starting to come down from a season, you’ll have a twitch in your leg or a twitch in your neck, something like that. I thought it was a regular twitch."
"I had just started working out, like probably a week before I went to the doctor. I had picked up a lot of weight. I was probably about 289 lbs. I had been in the house, not doing anything, gotten lazy. The tremor was pretty bad so I wasn’t really doing anything. So I had really been hitting it hard for a week.
"I went to OHSU and met with Dr. Nutt. When I went there, I had to get on the scale. It’s a digital scale. I’ve got the regular scale, the one with the weights on it. I went on there and I said, ‘This can’t be right. This can’t be right.’
"So we go in, he meets with us for about two minutes. He gets a really serious look on his face and he says, ‘Brian, you have Parkinson’s. I believe you have Parkinson’s.’ And I’m sitting there looking at the window like this and Gina’s rubbing my arm thinking, ‘Oh my goodness. What is he going to say? What is he going to do?’ I turned and looked at Dr. Nutt after about five second and go, ‘I can’t believe that scale said I was 289.’ That was the big thing, the big joke. That kind of broke the ice in there in the room.
"I was taken back, but at the same time I was relieved to know that, ok, this is what it might be. He couldn’t tell me for sure, but he was pretty sure I had Parkinson’s. So then from that point it was, what do I do? I knew I had to exercise. I knew I had to eat healthy. From that point I went a different route. I seeked out Dr. Newman and started a whole regiment of blood test and things to see what I was deficient in as far as minerals and vitamins and things like that. So I started doing supplements, a lot of supplements, IV therapy to put minerals and vitamins back into my system and build them up."
"I had actually sat with Vinnie Del Negro for most of the season in Phoenix when I was getting ready to retire and he told me, “Look Brian, when you retire, you’re going to go through a slight depression. All players do.’ You just kind of go through it because it’s what you were used to doing all of your life. Now it’s changed. It’s come to an end. When I went through it, it was just BOOM, something that was out of left field and I really couldn’t understand what it was about or where it was coming from.
"I know now it was sort of the precursor to the Parkinson’s. A lot of times when people go in for depression they’ll check for other signs that may be Parkinson’s because Parkinson’s and depression go hand in hand just because of the physiological changes your brains goes through. So when I met with Dr. Nutt almost seven months ago and he told me that I had Parkinson’s, that he thought I had Parkinson’s, the conventional medicine, which is very good and I use conventional as well as naturopathic, they suggest that you use certain drugs to maybe stop the progression. If I don’t want to have a tremor and I want to be able to do things I can go ahead and start taking L-DOPA, which would actually take the tremor away. Kind of like a quick fix. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to go that route so I went the naturopathic way.
"I don’t have to tell you if you live in Oregon that this is probably the best place in the world to do that. So I hooked up with Dr. Newman in Vancouver, WA and just kind of explored where my body was at as far as blood tests. I was very deficient in a lot of areas, vitamins and minerals. I have a very high content of mercury in my system, which can come from anything. I’m an avid fisherman and I’m one of those fisherman who if I catch it, I eat it. Maybe not the best thing to do. Not saying that’s why I have Parkinson’s, but we just took a different approach. I took a naturopathic approach toward things. All vitamins and supplements and things like that.
"I realized I was going to go public and once I went public, right now I’m really nervous. It works with your nerves. If I’m angry, it’s (shakes hand). If I’m sad or down it might be calm. Nervous, it really shakes a lot. My symptoms in doing naturopathic treatments have decreased. They’re a lot less than they were before I started. I’m just kind of going down both roads. I’m going down a conventional path as well as the naturopathic path to try and find an answer for me because each case is different. There’s no two cases that are the same.
"I’m learning as I go to. I was telling Gina that I’ve been having the craziest dreams. Crazy vivid dreams. I’d maybe have one or two a week, but now I have them every night. Every night a crazy dream. Come to find out that’s sort of one of the symptoms of it.
"As far as pain, I’m not in any type of pain other than stiffness in the shoulder because of the constant tremors. It’s just like anything: if you do it long enough then everything starts to tighten up. I go to a masseuse and get massages. I haven’t started it yet, but I’m going to go and start taking this course in qigong. It’s basically Tai Chi. Just try to focus my energy. I believe in a lot of different things, so I’m just going down any path that I can. Other than that I don’t really have any other symptoms other than the tremors.
"The calmer I am, the calmer (the tremor) is. As we continue to go along here, as I calm down, you’ll notice it will start to calm down. If I’m not thinking about it, if I’m actually thinking of something else totally off the cuff, then it will kind of go away. It just goes away. And then all of the sudden I’m think my hand isn’t shaking, then all the sudden it starts shaking. And the other time it doesn’t shake is when I sleep."
"This community has always been a community that openly embraced me and my family. When I got here there were a lot of things being said about the organization and the players. But I got here, made friends with all the players and understood all the players. And I also understood the community. This city loves their team and they support their team. But more so than loving their team and supporting it, they love people who don’t just take without giving back.
"When we got here it was an easy fit for us. It was a very easy fit. They opened up to us the same way we opened up to them. Now that I am in the situation I’m in, going onto the website, facebook, I’m just reading them and … thank you is what I’m trying to say because your words mean a lot."