Warriors

Saturday evening, Bill and I went to a fundraising dinner for Rock Steady Boxing Mesa, which is the boxing gym Bill attends when we’re here in AZ. Not being a social-type, I wasn’t looking forward to the event. Cold lasagna and boring talk with strangers is not the way I generally like to spend Saturday nights. Fuzzy slippers and a downloaded comedy film are more to my liking.

Still, Rock Steady Boxing is a nonprofit about which I can get excited. While it would be hyperbole to say that boxing has changed Bill’s life, it certainly is accurate to say that boxing has challenged Bill on many levels, and it has certainly helped him keep his symptoms under control.

Bill loves the boxing class for many reasons. He has always been a boxing fan, having grown up watching the Friday night fights with his dad every week. In addition to the boxing, however, Bill has loved being surrounded by a group of men and women, mostly his age, who face the same challenges as he does on a daily basis. If he — or one of his fellow boxers — takes a tumble, there is no need for embarrassment because they all fall at one time or another. One of the guys will walk over and give the man or woman a hand up and share a laugh.

As it turned out, it was neither boring nor a waste of my time. Instead, I found myself talking to people who either have PD or love someone who has PD. Do you know who I didn’t find myself talking to? People who feel sorry for themselves or think they drew the short straw in life. Down to the very last person to whom I interacted, I found cheerful, enthusiastic warriors.

The Mesa affiliate is run by a couple named Leanne and Tom. Leanne is the sister of Blaine, who founded Rocky Steady Boxing Mesa after he was diagnosed with the disease. He was diagnosed in 2002, and for over 10 years, he tried to find some kind of exercise program geared specifically to people with Parkinson’s. He began hearing about the benefits of boxing, largely due to the influence of the late Mohammad Ali, and began looking into opening a gym. For the first couple of years, a local boxing gym donated space to the group of boxers, but that required that three times a week, they had to haul in the boxing equipment, including the bags, and haul them back out at the end of the class.

Eventually, he found space in a strip mall in central Mesa, where the classes are still held today. No more hauling of equipment. They’ve moved from one class three times a week to four classes three times a week. Blaine and his wife have retired, but his sister and brother-in-law carry on the tradition. And the classes are full. The workout is a whopper, laughter is plentiful, and the love and support in the room is plentiful.

Most of all, these men and women are an inspiration to this blogger who admits that her glass is half empty. I am happy to say that I am the wife of a Parkinson’s Warrior.

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