“You have young onset Parkinson’s disease.” Those are words you never want to hear. I had been having strange symptoms for a couple of years and I was embarrassed by tremors and confused by my lack of coordination. My confidence was shot, and I had started to withdraw from activities. My world was rapidly shrinking. Although hearing my diagnosis answered the question of what was wrong with me, it tipped my world upside down. I left the doctor’s office with very little hope for a fulfilling and happy future. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the adventures that were ahead of me.
Immediately following my diagnosis, my husband started researching ways to help me. After reading about the benefits of exercise for people with Parkinson’s, and at my husband’s urging, I walked into a Rock Steady Boxing gym. Rock Steady Boxing is a non-contact boxing and fitness program specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s. I was not athletic and had never boxed in my life. The thought of boxing, especially with a neurological disease, was extremely intimidating.
My first day at the gym I was welcomed into a new family. I met people who were on the same path. They were willing to lead me, stand beside me and push me when I needed it. Not only did the intense exercise help reduce my symptoms but my confidence started to return and I began to form fast friendships with my fellow fighters. We are truly a family. We share our fears and our achievements. We cry together and we laugh together. Sometimes, it seems we laugh more than we box. Laughter, after all, is a good dopamine boost and we all need that.
Fast forward three years and I am still boxing. In fact, for the past two years, I have been a certified Rock Steady coach. I believe so much in what Rock Steady has done for me that I want to help others get the same benefit. The biggest thing that I have learned over these three years it to not try to do this alone. Whether you go to Rock Steady or another program, make sure to find something you enjoy and find others with Parkinson’s to be part of your family.
We end every Rock Steady session with a cheer. My favorite one says it all: