In 2004, I was diagnosed in the early stage of aggressive prostate cancer. Later that year I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In the following years I had double hernia repair, back surgery, and, ironically, sinus and neck surgeries – but this is not my story.
The story I want to share is one of the hope and fulfillment that followed my diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Five years ago I wandered into the Rock Steady Boxing gym and began a training program for people with Parkinson’s that would change my life. As a result of this training I am in the best physical (and spiritual) condition of my life. I have learned that many personal limits are self-imposed and only serve as an excuse not to push farther. I found the joy of discovering and appreciating the talents and blessings that God has given to me, and of using those gifts as a way of honoring them.
It was with my newfound fitness level that I decided to run again. Now I knew that anything was possible. Why not go for that mystical Marathon finish line? I called my brother Bruce for advice. He had run over 60 marathons, and he was thrilled. We chose the 2011 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon as our event. I took this new challenge seriously. I had a plan and a goal. I joined the Blue Mile Running Company training program, and Bruce was mentoring and encouraging me from Kansas City. My two Rock Steady Boxing Coaches and a fellow boxer from the gym were inspired to run as well. The race evolved into the first race for the “Rock Steady Road Team.”
Race morning was clear and cold as the Rock Steady team gathered well before dawn. We began our 26 mile challenge. Some of the race is a blur in my mind, but the support I had from my family, friends, and teammates remains vividly clear. We ticked off the miles slowly as my knee function declined. When we turned onto Senate Avenue and saw the 26 mile marker, 6 hours and 20 minutes after we began, the feeling of fulfillment it inspired washed away any frustrations encountered along the way. When I turned the corner and approached the finish line, the theme music from the movie “Rocky” filled the air, a special gift carefully orchestrated by my wife who had been waiting there for hours.
I wanted to run this race because I believed I could, and I wanted to celebrate and honor that potential with which I had been blessed. I wanted to give back in a small way to Rock Steady Boxing by showing the empowerment and the improvements to the quality of life Rock Steady can bring to people with Parkinson’s. I wanted to demonstrate the power of belief and persistence in achieving difficult goals. I wanted to share my joy of life with those who have made that joy possible.