I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in 2018. Four years prior to that, I suffered through shoulder and back pain, foot cramps and hand surgery that didn’t heal — all on my left side. I was also suffering from depression, fatigue and an overwhelming sense of apathy.
During a regular check-up, I mentioned my symptoms to my general practitioner who suggested I see a neurologist. Almost on the spot, she diagnosed me with PD and recommended that I see a movement disorder specialist. On January 29, 2018, my life changed forever as Lee, my husband, and I sat in the doctor’s office where the original diagnosis was confirmed. I was 52.
Following the diagnosis, I felt paralyzed and sat on the couch numb. Then, I got a call that changed my life ― a recommendation to a PD boxing group. I have never exercised consistently. I never felt the endorphin rush people talk about when working out, but somehow I got myself into the gym and started boxing with LDBF Boxing for Parkinson’s (Pdboxing.org).
LDBF is my new village. I am in the best physical shape of my life. It’s more than boxing. It’s a camaraderie shared between the boxers, trainers and volunteers — all of whom contribute to my emotional healing on a daily basis.
I began to box in April, three months after the diagnosis. I did not go willingly. I hid behind the bags out of breath and demoralized. Then one day, I started to enjoy the workouts and sought out more challenging classes. LDBF’s “Inside the Ring” class taught by trainer Bryan Jensen fit the bill — a perfect mixture of inside the ring drills, sparring and floor work focusing on memory, balance and cardio.
My advice to someone newly diagnosed:
- Don’t wait. Find a boxing program.
- Be your own advocate. Make sure you feel comfortable with your doctor.
- Find a mentor. I am developing an official young-onset PD mentorship program.
- Dig deep for the courage to reach out.
- Recognize there will be good days and bad.
In addition to boxing, I also participate in the Parkinson’s Foundation Moving Day Atlanta event held every fall at Piedmont Park, as well as the special event Good Vibrations. Not only are these events fun, but they remind me and so many others that we are not alone.