Boxing Helps to Ease the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
One of our members, Chantelle, has taken up Boxing since being diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease.
Several famous Boxers have gone on to develop Parkinson’s later in life, it seems slightly ironic that Boxing can help reduce the symptoms of what can be a debilitating illness.
Boxing teaches its students many important life lessons, dedication, determination, and that when many would believe that you are beaten, that you need to dust yourself off and rise again.
Everyone at Elite Boxing Gym admires the strength and courage of Chantelle who has shown true determination and grit when it comes to fighting the symptoms and progression of this life-changing disease.
So, in her own words, this is Chantell’s story…
In September 2016 I had an operation and whilst I was recovering at home I noticed that my index finger on my right hand had a tremor. It’s the kind of thing I probably would have ignored normally, but because I was at home I sort of tuned into it and a few weeks later I
noticed that the shaking had spread into my thumb on the same hand. It was odd, but I wasn’t overly concerned, to begin with.
However a few months later I noticed that my whole hand had a tremor and my right shoulder was really stiff; to the point where I was brushing my teeth one day and I realised that my shoulder and arm wasn’t working – I was effectively brushing my teeth by moving my head from side to side rather than my arm!
I went to the doctor’s and he said it was probably something called an ‘essential tremor’ and that it could just ‘come and go’.
By summer 2017 my shoulder became more painful and any movement was extremely restricted – I struggled to do the simplest of tasks, such as blow drying my hair or taking my bra off.
I noticed that I started to tremor when I was trying to write whilst in meetings at work. Walking up and down the office it felt like my leg was dragging behind me and I was leaving my shoe behind. When climbing the stairwell I struggled to lift my right leg up the steps and I felt so tired, which is unlike me as I’m somebody who is always on the go. It was starting to worry me.
I also began to have vivid dreams. I dreamt about terrifying things happening to my children and family. Some of the dreams were real things that were happening in my life one day when my husband lost his glasses I dreamt that I was going around the world looking for them when I was attacked and it felt so real. I kept shouting out and lashing out in my sleep. I would wake myself up then go back to sleep and start dreaming again. I was so tired at work.
I started to become really worried at this point so I began to keep a diary of everything that was happening to me.
My G.P referred me to a neurologist at the Salford Royal who did some tests. By the time of my appointment, my arm didn’t seem to be swinging whilst I was walking.
During the testing, he asked me to do a bizarre series of movements and I felt like I was doing ‘The Birdie Song’ for part of it – I had to do a little bit of this and that and the motion I made with my hands reminded me of the dance. At one point I thought – ‘are you having a laugh?’ Walking up and down his office, sitting down standing up several times. Following his finger touching his finger touching my nose. My husband found it highly amusing!
I was invited back to an appointment with the consultant on 20 January 2018.
I assumed I’d be told that it was an essential tremor and nothing to worry about so I said to my husband he didn’t need to accompany me this time and he should take our youngest to his football match instead and that I’d see them at home later.
At my appointment, I gave the consultant two pages of A4 which listed all the funny things that had been happening to me. We did the birdie song again along with all the other tests and I told him about how tired I was due to all the constant dreaming.
I didn’t expect in my wildest dreams what he was about to say to me next:
‘I’m sorry but you have Parkinson’s disease’
I watched his mouth talking but I couldn’t hear what he was saying, everything was in slow motion. I was so shocked. He gave me a leaflet with something like ‘Newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s and sent me to the nurse for more blood samples. I just sat there in silence and she asked me if I was ok. All I wanted to do was get out of the hospital and into my car. I
stayed in the car park for a short time I burst out crying and called my husband, my brother and my best friend to tell them what had happened.
I didn’t really understand what Parkinson’s was and spent the next two days at home on my laptop, researching and searching for answers. The 2 recurring thoughts in my head were “There’s been a mistake, I can’t have Parkinson’s – I am only 42!” and “Why did this happen to me??”
Exercise and boxing
When searching online I saw that there was loads about how exercise can help slow down the progression of Parkinson’s.
I went to the Parkinson’s UK website and joined the forum – there were a lot of people talking about exercise there too – and they suggested things they’d been doing – like PD Warrior and Nordic Walking and a couple of them talked about fitness and the gym.
I found online that in America they have something called Rock Steady Boxing – a contactless form of boxing training for people with Parkinson’s that is huge over there, but I couldn’t find a class anywhere in the UK.
I rang around my local gyms but couldn’t find anywhere that worked with people with Parkinson’s. Eventually, I was put in touch with Elite Boxing in Bolton and it just so happened that they had another person diagnosed with Parkinson’s going there called Michael – who was diagnosed 8 years ago and had been training with them for a few years.
It took all my courage to enter through the doors of the Boxing gym for the first time. I was so anxious, nervous my tremor was on full voltage. The staff and qualified coaches were so welcoming and any fears I had previously soon disappeared. I was instantly included as a member of the Elite Boxing family. Everyone one has their own story, I am fighting to save my movement and slow down the progression of the debilitating effect of Parkinson’s.
Boxing is better for me than just going to the local gym. They push me harder than I would push myself whilst showing me the correct movement and posture to help build my strength and increase my mobility.
The head coach Alex Matvienko is an ex-professional boxer and has been involved in boxing for over 20 years. He trained under several other highly respected professional coaches. The highlight for me is training metres away from some of the professional boxers and hearing them calling out support and encouragement to myself and Michael. I’ve got a lovely picture of the three of us. (See below)
Since I started boxing I’ve noticed massive improvements – I can’t tell you how much it’s improved my balance and increased mobility in my shoulder. I can lift it up to my ear now, whereas before I couldn’t even lift my arm up my back.
I’m passionate about raising awareness that non-contact boxing training can make such a huge difference for people with Parkinson’s like me.
Charles Delve is the first UK trained boxing coach for people with Parkinson’s. Charles is setting up a programme called ‘BOX POSITIVE’ this is in affiliation with counterpunch Parkinson’s NZ.
Charles has contacted the chief executive Steve Ford and spoke to a lady named Tyna Brych and would like support with rolling the programme out once he is qualified as an Occupational Therapist in May. Charles has a very good understanding of the condition and is a great coach. He contacted me on the Parkinson’s UK forum and put me through a
session. Charles focused on movements that really challenged my coordination and made me think, it was also great fun.
I’ve set up a Facebook page called Chantell’s Journey so people can see my progress with the boxing and how I am living with Parkinson’s.
I want to show people that if I can do it, then they can do it. I get loads of comments and messages from people saying either that their mum or dad has Parkinson’s and can’t move.
Elite boxing has a free over 50’s class which me and Michael also attend – its great fun and everyone is really supportive of each other.
I understand boxing training might not be for everyone and I would say that any exercise is better than doing nothing, Even just going for a short walk in the fresh air can help and you’ll feel better for it.
I have two sons they are 18 and 12 years old. When I was first diagnosed my oldest son took to Google to find out more – he was upset and didn’t speak about it much. But he’s interested in the boxing and can see the changes in my movement around the house and that’s helped us talk about it a bit more.
It was harder for my 12-year-old. He asked his dad if his mum was going to die. That upset me so much trying to explain to him something that I really didn’t know much about or why it happened to me. I’ve tried to explain to him that I’m still the same mum but I just get tired more now and that I’m not going to die, it was hard for him to understand at first but he’s settled down now and he even has started to tease me a little if I get the tremor in my hand, it helps lighten the mood.
Parkinson’s makes you more anxious and I worry about them both a lot more now. My anxiety is high most of the time whereas before I never used to worry a lot. When my youngest goes off to school on his bike I worry that he’s going to get knocked off.
My husband has been really supportive, he told me he would always be there for me and encouraged me from the start to see the positive side: A diagnosis meant that I could begin treatment and find ways to alleviate some of the symptoms I had experienced.
He was a bit surprised when I started boxing training but has encouraged me, buying me gym equipment etc. He tells me every day how proud he is of the way I have met the challenge of PD head-on and not allowed it to put our life on hold. We make sure we make time to do the things we enjoy, like take the dog for walks or go to the local pub (and the bonus is I don’t have to go to the bar now either in case I drop the drinks!).
My family have been a brilliant support. When I was first diagnosed all I wanted to do was cry and wish it would go away. But they all encourage me to stay active, to talk, to go out with friends or go shopping. I’m so lucky to have the support of my family and friends.
I’m on the medication [Pipexus] at the moment and they are increasing the dose over four months for me. I feel a bit sick on it. I thought it would be a magical pill and stop the tremor but it hasn’t yet. But I’m keeping on with it and keeping my fingers crossed. I think for me I am embarrassed if people don’t know me and see my tremor. I struggle to get money out of my purse or write in front of people
I take another tablet [Clonazepam] for the night-time to help with the dreams.