My story begins in early 2011 when I started to notice my writing was getting more difficult to read …not that my writing was very good to begin with. Also around the same time, I was experiencing a mild “shakiness” in my right arm and hand. With some quick Google research, all indications were it was nothing to be concerned about. In May, my tremor was still active but tolerable. With much prompting from my wife, a registered nurse, I decided to get a professional’s perspective. I just wanted to know what was going on, why and what we can do about it. I went straight to a neurologist and the conclusion was I had an Essential Tremor; nothing to worry about. On my way out the door the doctor’s last words were “It’s not Parkinson’s!”
Seven months fly by and during that time coworkers and family are making comments urging me to sit up straight and watch my posture. I thought nothing of it. Hand writing was really getting worse however and the tremor was still active, mostly when using my right arm. I went back to the neurologist. It was January 31, 2012. After completing a battery of physical activities I asked the doc “So, what do you think?” One look at the neurologist was all I needed to know something was not right. My neurologist explained that through the exam, some new symptoms presented that previously had not been seen.
Then the words came loud and clear “Mark, all indications are you have Parkinson’s disease.” “What now?” I said. The neurologist recommended that I begin taking a mild drug to manage the tremor and I was told to come back in a month. As I walked to the door the doctor looked up and said the strangest thing. “Look up boxing for Parkinson’s on the internet!” Really?!
That evening I poured through information about boxing and Parkinson’s and found Rock Steady Boxing right here in Indianapolis. The very next day, Feb 1, 2012, I made the call. I was greeted on the phone by Kristy “Rose” Follmar. Kristy welcomed my call, provided me with information and invited me to come to observe an actual class.
The very next day I find myself standing in the doorway of the boxing gym. There were about 10 people getting ready for a class. People were amazingly kind and attentive, many coming up to me asking if I am new. I acknowledged I was. Then the big question all new people are asked, “When were you diagnosed?” “Just yesterday” I said. Judging by the expressions on faces around me, it was evident this was not a common answer. They explained to me it is atypical for a person with Parkinson’s to come to the gym so soon post diagnosis. They congratulated me for being there. I felt that people empathized and comforted me. They made me welcome and invited me to come back. By the end of the week, I completed my physical assessment, and joined Rock Steady.
Since the time I first joined, I owe a huge debt to Rock Steady Boxing for my life would be more difficult were it not for this amazing organization. The Coaches and other staff are true professionals and experts in their field with very caring hearts. We spend a lot of time together. We are a community that provides support for each other …. In so many ways Rock Steady has become my second family.
In the 12 months after my diagnoses:
I joined RSB and workout 2-3 times for 90 minute classes each week
I lost 10 unnecessary lbs. … I feel as healthy as when I was in college
I enrolled in a clinical trial with University of Indianapolis
I lead an effort to build relations with Indiana University Health
I was invited and accepted a position on the Board of Directors
My 1-year assessment showed a 10 – 20% improvement in my physical capabilities compared to my baseline
I love the Rock Steady community of people with Parkinson’s….these are people who have positive attitudes, and are active and driven to fight against Parkinson’s Disease every day of their life…they are very special people….friends that support each other and “do life together.” Thank you Rock Steady! You rock!