OpEd: Battling Parkinson’s Disease One Boxing Lesson at a Time

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“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” goes the adage.

I find myself once again dealing with something I never saw in my future.

Coming out of my lengthy hospital stay battling Covid-19, I noticed an involuntary movement in my right thumb and foot. I marked it up to a nervous twitch from all the emotional stress and anticipated it would subside. It didn’t.  

My moment of truth came one morning at my gym. Someone who I didn’t know at the time said, “Can I ask you a personal question?” Giving the okay, he asked, “Do you have Parkinson’s?” “Why?”, I asked. His response floored me. “You have the same symptoms I had when I got Parkinson’s.” He told me my movements, including the tremors, were affecting my walking gait and overall mobility on my right side. I hadn’t even realized.  

Sure enough, visiting a neurologist confirmed the diagnosis. That was almost two years ago. As much as I didn’t want to learn about Parkinson’s potential devastation, I became knowledgeable enough to know I had to find a way to combat it.

Here is where the lemonade gets made.

Study after study have found that exercise is an invaluable tool in the fight. Some suggest that continuous, intensive training may confer neuroprotection and slow, stop, or reverse the progression of Parkinson’s or promote neuro-restoration. Armed with that knowledge, I decided to be all in with my personal fight against PD.

Enter Rock Steady Boxing, a program designed in 2006 by a Parkinson’s sufferer for those fighting the disease. To date they have trained more than 50,000 PD boxers in 900 facilities worldwide.

In the past year, I have been attending training sessions at the New York Fitness and Boxing Gym twice and now three times a week. The training by Coach Michelle Marcisak is a solid hour of focused exercises for flexibility, balance, mental focus, agility, and, of course, boxing. RSB is open to all levels of PD sufferers. 

I am so convinced that Rock Steady Boxing provides such huge benefits that I was interviewed by Dr. Akshay Syal of NBC News Daily when they came to film a segment about the program. You see, I am not only fighting for myself, but sharing my experience—which has effectively kept the symptoms status quo, and in some regards improving—to inspire others diagnosed with or supporting loved ones with Parkinson’s Disease.

So, for the time being it will be: get up, hit the gym, and get to work. 

The author, Greg Demetriou, is the founder of Lorraine Gregory Communications in Edgewood, a multi award-winning marketing and advertising agency. He can be reached at [email protected].