Action and Reaction

Another year has passed in a flash, and it’s Parkinson’s Awareness Month again (or Parkinson’s Action Month – my memory is failing, but I do have the ability to read back and remember what I said in the past.  It helps me to keep the lies straight.)

I’m trying to stay consistent with the theme of action this April, and I’ve been successful and not-so-successful by turns.  Exercise is very important for a Parkinson’s patient, and I’m the first to recommend that other people do it.  I’m not so great at living up to my own recommendations, though, so I have resolved to do better.  After months of hints and reminders, I finally accepted my friend Sheila’s invitation to a Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson’s class.

I have never even been to a boxing match, and I lost the only fight I had growing up (unless you include the time my brother Ken kicked me squarely in the right cheekbone in a play karate fight – in that case, I have lost two fights). Sheila assured me, though, that the only thing that would be punched was a punching bag.  My DBS implant and I took her at her word, and so last Tuesday I showed up at the gym, ready to punch some bag.

It took a while to get to the punching; first there was the stretching and the rotating and the large-stepping and the bear-crawling.  Wait just a minute, I thought – this is an exercise class?  I get plenty of exercise with the TV remote – I’m here to HIT something.

Just as my suspicion that the class was designed to be beneficial reached a peak, we stopped with the exercising and our instructor Steve handed out boxing gloves and told us to find a bag and a partner.  I partnered with the unsuspecting, trusting Sue, who was experienced in the ways of Rock Steady and promised to show me the ropes.  Poor Sue.  I hope she recovers and forgets about that lawsuit.

I love velcro, but never more than while trying to put on a pair of boxing gloves when just emerging from a deep “off’ episode.  When I’m off I feel like I’m already wearing boxing gloves, so I struggled a little to get an additional pair over the ones I was already wearing.  The velcro helped enormously, and my lack of a sense of smell kept me from realizing that the wrist flaps I was tugging with my teeth were saturated with the sweat of eons.  Mmm, salty, I thought.

I have absolutely no training in the manly art of boxing, but I would be damned before I would admit that to anyone.  Pain is an excellent teacher, however, and I learned quickly to punch from the shoulder and stiffen my wrists to avoid the “accordion effect” – all those Saturday morning cartoons weren’t wasted after all.  We started with a left-right jab combination, moved on to a left-right jab and left hook combo, and ended with jab combos followed by uppercut combos.  That’s what everyone else was doing, anyway; Chuck Norris had become my spirit animal, and I was just beating the crap out of that bag, freestyle.  And also Sue, unfortunately, who was caught between the bag and the wall, bouncing back and forth like a pinball caught between two bumpers (young guys, find an old guy and ask).

Steve dropped by and suggested I stop killing Sue, and I reluctantly agreed.  I learned something else: I LIKE hitting things, and it’s hard to stop when adrenaline becomes a factor.  I also learned that I feel much safer beating up semi-middle aged women than I do Steve, who looked like he could not only take a punch, but might deliver one, too.  Paper targets don’t shoot back; double-end bags don’t punch back, either, so all my fevered punching didn’t really do anything but make me sweat profusely and feel like throwing up.  Hey, I thought, just like Parkinson’s.  That thought was worth another uppercut; I missed the bag, of course, and almost caught Steve south of the border.  He’s a professional; he saved the huevos, and I nearly punched myself in the head.  Chuck Norris, where you are when I need you, brother?

I had a blast – I’m going back tomorrow, after I go see Sue in the hospital (I made that part up – it’s actually a court date).  I’m hoping to convince her to just punch me a few times and let it go.

I can’t tell you too much about it, but I’m also involved in another project to help bring a new Parkinson’s drug to market.  The concept is fascinating and deceptively simple, and stands to relieve much suffering if it pans out.  I’m a combination lab rat and potential minor spokes-model, and the main reason I can’t tell you too much about it is that I don’t understand it. It’s cool, though. (Psst – can you keep a secret? Me, too.)

I have always been taught that accountability brings results (or shame and guilt, or excessive stress, or something – can’t remember), so I’ll share a plan with you and become accountable to you. If you liked the first one I hope you’ll like the second one – I’m working on another book.  If you didn’t like the first one, I hope you’ll either remain silent or lie to me.  I’m racing with Amy to see who publishes first. I’ll win – she’s a heckuva lot smarter, but burdened by the truth.

The book hasn’t told me yet what it’s going to be about when it’s finished, but my intent is to write a collection of essays about the impact of attitude on…everything. It might be a long book. It could also turn out differently.  I intended to write a cookbook when I wrote the first one, and look how that turned out.

April reminds me of how quickly time passes.  This is my seventh April as a person with Parkinson’s, and the years are beginning to flicker by.  I had my first major freezing episode last weekend, and it scared the crap out of me.  Thank God for family and Apokyn.  My daughter is getting married in the fall, and we’re making plans for our father-daughter wedding dance – thank God for answered prayers.  Amy and I had dinner tonight with two really great people, new friends that are the result of a web of relationships that probably would have not come about without the ass-backward blessing of Parkinson’s disease.  Thank God for using adversity to bless us.

I can still treat April as Parkinson’s Action Month – thank God.

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