In part two of a series, columnist Jean Mellano’s Rock Steady Boxing journey continues. Read part one.
The camaraderie fostered by Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) is off the charts, and our coach is so encouraging and compassionate. We are all part of a team united in a common goal: to fight the progression or possibly reverse the relentless symptoms we struggle with daily.
No one seems to be self-conscious about being unable to master or even perform a move. We are all so focused on doing the best we can with the cards that we have been dealt. Our resolve is strengthened by the knowledge that we are not alone and there are others who are valiantly battling the symptoms of this disease.
After one class, a participant couldn’t unwrap the tape that goes on our hands under our gloves, and I was so happy to be able to help him. A few minutes later, I couldn’t put my coat on; he was right behind me and offered a helping hand, which I graciously accepted. Everyone in the class is empathetic to the challenges those of us with Parkinson’s disease (PD) face every day.
This is no children’s birthday party
My late husband Steve would always say about his German-focused cycle training camps in Mallorca: “Dies ist kein Kindergeburtstag.” (“This is no children’s birthday party.”) The same can be said for RSB. These classes are not for the faint of heart. Depending on how PD may be affecting me on any particular day, some classes are harder than others. I have read that people with PD have to work twice as hard during physical activity than those without PD due to our lack of dopamine. I can certainly attest to that theory.
A great confidence booster
PD had slowly eroded my confidence in myself as an athlete. In one RSB class, we were offered the opportunity to “break wood” with our hand. Something was holding me back from attempting this challenge.
I thought long and hard as to what was stopping me and I believe it was because I was afraid of failing due to my loss of self-confidence. In the next class, I decided to overcome my fear and attempted to “break wood.” I succeeded on the first try. You would have thought I crushed a 200-pound boulder in half, I was so excited!
Floating like a butterfly
Occasionally, I have had short-lived moments of my past athletic abilities. In one class, I recall a drill in which we were punching and ducking punches. For the briefest moment, a door to my past life of dancing opened. I had strength, power, rhythm, and speed for maybe 30 seconds. I know it was real because my fellow class members could see it and they cheered me on. It was such an incredible high, but oh-so-fleeting. As quickly as that joyous moment came, it was gone and I returned to my normal, slow, non-rhythmic self.
After being so blissfully high during my “float like a butterfly” moment, I came crashing down later that day while I was scooping flour into a plastic bag. My left hand stopped working and I dropped the open bag on the floor and spewed flour all over myself.
Unfortunately, this is a typical roller coaster ride of a day in the life of a person afflicted with PD. The unpredictability of this disease is so challenging. A day can have hopeful moments where one can feel like their pre-PD self, but then we are reminded of our reality and what we have lost to this disease and our hopes are cruelly dashed. These ups and downs are exhausting.
With RSB, I have rediscovered the ability to train hard, even if only for a few minutes at a time. Somehow, I am able to dig deep and really hammer parts of my workout.
In just four months of RSB, two times per week, I started to see a consistent difference in my physical abilities and my confidence was growing. I hold no illusions that I am “cured” and I understand that there will still be some bad days, but I truly believe RSB will continue to make a positive difference in my quality of life.
My RSB journey will continue, if only to briefly feel the joy of opening the door once again to the rhythm and athleticism I once enjoyed.
No rest for the weary
Although RSB has done much to alleviate my symptoms, I have learned to never let my guard down and rest on my laurels. I cannot become complacent in my quest to stop the progression of PD and minimize my symptoms. Instead, I must let my setbacks strengthen me, which in turn will allow me to persevere.
This will be a lifelong journey with no rest for the weary.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.