“My Journey to Rock Steady Boxing”
Ned Neuhaus boxes with RSB Affiliate program, Rock Steady Boxing Peoria
I had always been healthy; the only time I was ever in a hospital was a trip to the ER when I was 14 for a broken arm. In my mid forties, I noticed a small tremor and eventually found my way to a movement disorder specialist.
She had me go through the battery of tests that Parkinson’s patients are so familiar with: tapping your index finger to your thumb, opening and closing your hands, tapping your feet, holding out your hands with your eyes closed and counting backwards, walking down the hall, etc.
She looked at my wife and I and said, “You have Parkinsonism and you most likely have Parkinson’s, but I need to see you a few more times before I can say for sure.” When she said those words, you could have knocked me over with a feather.
I was NOT prepared. WE were not prepared. I spent the next few months trying to get more doctors to look at me. In my mind, there was no way she was correct. But, everyone said the same thing, and always after the same battery of seemingly simple tests (I now know to expect those tests every visit to the movement disorder specialist.)
Growing up, I was a good athlete in several sports. Hockey was my best. I was top of my high school and college academically. I had a successful career starting out in public accounting and then at Caterpillar. I drive race cars on the weekend and play guitar and drums. I don’t any say those things to brag, but to help people understand that it was not easy to have someone tell you there was now this “thing” that will be with you for the rest of your life that is going to make every one of those activities that help define you as a person harder, if not impossible to continue to do.
I even found myself thinking that maybe I would rather have something like cancer … in my twisted view and in my depressed state, it seemed better. It had a defined start and end, but there was no end to Parkinson’s disease.
I constantly worried about what this was going to mean for my wife and kids. Would their lives now be turned upside down by having to take care of me? This was not fair to them. It was “ok” that I was going to suffer, but it wasn’t fair that they had to as well.
I slowly began to know this was real, but HOW do I react?
We went to a local support group, and it helped a bit. But, it was scary at the same time. There were a lot of people in pretty bad shape. I wondered, how long before I was just like them?
I kept reading that depression was a common issue, so I took an enormous step and met with a therapist. Over a couple of months, she helped me realize that Parkinson’s disease did not define me. I was still me, now just with Parkinson’s disease. We did lots of exercises to help me learn to cope. The most powerful exercise was for me to write a letter to Parkinson’s. It was hard, but it helped me clarify what was going on emotionally. It was such a powerful exercise for me, that I asked my wife to do the same thing. It was somehow easier for us to write our feelings about Parkinson’s down on paper than to talk directly to each other. I found a whole new set of priorities and, in a strange way, had Parkinson’s disease to thank for it.
The more I reached out to the Parkinson’s community, the more I saw this was not all bad. There were some great people doing great things. Maybe I could be one of them.
I found a personal trainer in Chicago, named Eric Johnson. I started working out with him to develop a personal program to fight back against the progression. It immediately made an impact. I was HOOKED. During this time, Eric was in process of setting up the affiliate program Rock Steady Windy City with his partners. We started adding some boxing to my sessions. Once they started offering the Rock Steady Boxing classes, I started adding these to my bi-weekly visits to the city.
I knew this needed to be in my home community of Peoria, Illinois, so others could benefit. Through my neurologist, I met Heidi Bauer and Dorian Mosack, who were also interested in pursuing a RSB affiliate program in Peoria. It was a perfect match of skill sets and we made our way to the October, 2015 Training Camp in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Unlike Dorian and Heidi, I don’t have a background in health or physical training. I wasn’t sure what to expect at Training Camp. As it turned out, there were two other people with Parkinson’s disease in my class. Everyone was extremely accepting and clearly empathetic. The RSB Coaches were inspiring and motivating. I have never worked so hard and had so much fun at the gym. In just a short while, I was helping coach their Parkinson’s classes and having a great time! It was a great intellectual, physical and emotional experience. I have been to a lot of training classes over the years, and this was by far the best!
We can’t wait to bring Rock Steady to more and more fighters in Peoria!