My Rock Steady Boxing Journey Continues

My Rock Steady Boxing Journey Continues

In part two of a series, columnist Jean Mellano’s Rock Steady Boxing journey continues. Read part one.

Camaraderie

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.

Digging deep

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.

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At the age of 62, I started writing to inspire conversation about mental illness and suicide after my life partner, Steve Tarpinian, took his own life in 2015. Seven months after Steve passed, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Now, in addition to Steve's story, I am telling my own.

6 comments

  1. Eric says:

    Sorry Jean,
    I had to laugh at your flour episode and had a brief picture of Casper the Friendly Ghost as it sounded like one of my many shaky moments followed by a tiring/annoying cleanup. Inspired by your series as I’ve been trying to push myself to a RSB twenty minutes away. Question, do you and others go there in an “on” mode or really try to battle through in “off” mode. Thanks, and keep writing.
    Eric

    • Jean Mellano says:

      Hi Eric, yes, Casper sounds about right 🙂 I think it is so important to keep our sense of humor over the sometimes absurdity of this disease. Whenever I spill something, I hate the clean up as it usually takes me forever since I am so slow.

      I am happy you found RSB not too far from you. I hope you like it.

      I speak for myself when I say I am committed to my RSB 2x week come hell or high water. Just about every time I go, it is a struggle to get my motivation and even sometimes in class, I am learning to cut myself some slack and back off when I need to. I have to admit, I am usually toast after my class, but, I do think the benefits are long term and the skills we develop are essential to fighting this disease. The coach understands as do the other participants. I believe most of the other class diehards push themselves even when they dont feel like going and every one that has says they feel much better after class.

    • Coach Hans says:

      Hi Eric, I start my RSB workout 1 hr. after my morning meds. Research has shown the meds. go deeper into the brain when intense exercise is done within 2 hrs. I do a 9am session, then coach or cornerman the 11am session 4 days a week.I leave the gym with more energy than I arrived with! I take my afternoon meds before jogging or weight work. This exercise routine has allowed me to ditch the walker and the cane. At 65 I am in better condition than I was 20 yrs. ago when my PD symptoms began. So, Eric my friend, Get into a RSB gym and join us in fighting back at Parkinson’s!

  2. Lauren says:

    You rock Jean! I was diagnosed 2 years ago and my confidence was gone as soon as my diagnosis was confirmed. After a year at RSB, I became a certified coach. I am a different person than I was 2 years ago. Such much healthier, physically and mentally. Keep fighting and thanks for getting the word out about exercise. it is a life changer for those of us with PD.

    • Jean Mellano says:

      Hi Lauren, RSB is truly amazing. I am in awe of my fellow boxers and seeing them improve over the year since we first began boxing together. It certainly has made a huge difference in my life. Thank you for your comment…

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