Opinion Columns & Blogs

Throwing punches during Macon exercise program lets Parkinson’s sufferers fight back

Gil Thelen
Gil Thelen

Parkinson’s sufferers in Middle Georgia are striking back at their complex and mysterious condition.

Boxing gloves and heavy bags are among the retaliatory tools at the new Rock Steady Boxing site at Freedom Park in Macon. It is only one of four sites in Georgia offering this gold-standard exercise program just for people with Parkinson’s.

Knowledge and resolve are the prescription for the second year of Study/Action groups for people with Parkinson’s (or Parkies as I call fellow patients and our care partners).

The 2018 group participants numbered four dozen. The group’s major victory was successfully pushing to gain the nonprofit Rock Steady franchise for Middle Georgia. RSB classes began Nov. 15.

The Me-Over-PD Foundation plans a fourth Study/Action class in 2019. My wife, Struby Thelen, and I will lead the nine-hour, six-session program running every other week January through March.

Parkinson’s is not a death sentence. It is possible to live well, or at least better, with this condition.

Consider these ringing words from Dr. Peter Schmidt, chief research and clinical officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation:

“When people describe Parkinson’s disease, they often define it as a disease that is incurable and without treatment to slow its progression. You can change how Parkinson’s affects you, but it takes hard work and dedication.”

The key is taking charge of the disease by aggressively seeking the most expert care available and engaging your brain through rigorous exercise and mental conditioning.

Parkinson’s disease is an ultimately unknowable neuromuscular — and more — condition. Each case is unique to the person. Even the numbers are approximations. One million cases in the U.S. Seven million worldwide. Sixty thousand new cases a year in the U.S. Second most common neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s.

Struby and I seek additional Middle Georgia Parkinson’s people willing to accept Dr. Schmidt’s challenge to engage fully their condition and relentlessly fight back against the beast.

I am experienced in PD training. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014 and was a leader of the PD Self national training program.

We will start the Middle Georgia study group in January in Macon. If you are interested in more information about the group and/or Rock Steady classes, please write me at gthelen1@icloud.com or call me at 813-787-3886.

Navicent Health and Macon-Bibb Parks and Recreation co-sponsor Rock Steady classes. The charge is $40 a month.

Gil Thelen is president of MOPD, a Middle Georgia and west Florida nonprofit Parkinson’s patient advocacy organization. He and his wife moved to Macon a year ago after 20 years in Tampa, where he was a newspaper editor and publisher.