To The Editor,
February 2018. I just had my 65th birthday. I am sitting in a neurologist’s office with my husband John. We are here to find out what’s up ? The right side of my body has had a mind of its own the last year or so. I could list the weird goings-on but let’s cut to the chase.
The neurologist is point blank. He says “You have a neurodegenerative disorder called Parkinson’s. Your health will deteriorate over time , how quickly– no one knows. I will prescribe you a medication that will mask the symptoms. You will take this medication for the rest of your life. Any questions? Questions? My brain shut down when I heard the word Parkinson’s. I became numb. The next thing I heard was: “I will see you every six months.” It was a long, quiet ride home. What was there to say?
I no longer had any control over this body of mine or my life in general. I couldn’t bring myself to say Parkinson’s. In my mind, I referred to it as “The Beast within. ” He was in charge of what I did and what I could do.
John and I started taking one-hour early-morning walks. We took to holding hands. It helped steady my ever-changing gait. Some mornings, I wouldn’t get very far. ‘The Beast’” would raise his ugly head and say, “Don’t forget, lady. I am in charge!” I would last maybe 30 minutes, then head home feeling defeated. The next three years were hard. I told only family and close friends what was going on with me. I didn’t really want to talk about it. My naturally inquisitive mind shut down. I forced myself to live one day at a time. My days ranged from non-functioning (eating and sleeping) to dizziness and nausea– side effects from the medication that was masking my symptoms. My world was a dismal place. Suddenly COVID appeared out of nowhere and the whole world was upside down. COVID was the icing on my cake. On the upside, I couldn’t see anyone, so I could say I was fine and nobody questioned it. People were dealing with COVID any way they could. My problems were small in comparison. When COVID eased up, we started walking again. John would walk. Some days he would pull me along, some days I would sort of keep up. Now I fast forward to April 2022.
I was on Facebook one morning and for some reason, I typed in the word Parkinson’s. A few minutes later, up came an ad for a gym in Ottawa called Boxing for Health. Boxing! I had heard something about that somewhere. I quickly followed a link to their website. I read about it. I suddenly felt like I had won the lottery! There was a gym in Ottawa that caters just to people with Parkinson’s. Their sole mission is to give hope and help slow down the progression of the disease. They offer on-line interactive, high intensity cardio/boxing classes. All you need is a computer. On April 11, 2023 it was exactly one year since I started Boxing4Health. My balance has improved. My feet are firmly planted on the ground. The brain fog has lifted. My arms and legs are strong. My posture has improved, the nightmares have stopped. I love my morning walks. I keep up and sometimes pass John !
My condition is stable. At 70 years old, I am in fighting shape. And the Beast? I haven’t heard from him in ages. Boxing4Health gave me a sense of empowerment. I learned to manage the unmanageable. For someone who one year ago could barely say the word Parkinson’s, let alone admit I had it. I have come a long way. I decided to tell my story. If I can give hope to just one person or inspire them to take charge of their lives, I have accomplished what I set out to do. With the help of Boxing 4Health and my exercise family, I am ready to face the next leg of my journey. When asked if I really do have Parkinson’s, I answer yes. I have Parkinson’s. It doesn’t have me.