ARCHDALE, N.C. -- Being diagnosed with a disease that has no cure can be devastating, but there is a new program right here in the Piedmont that is using the sport of boxing to give people with Parkinson's a fighting chance at maintaining their quality of life. It's called Rock Steady Boxing.
“It doesn't cure it, but it makes it more tolerable to deal with,” said Jim Poteat, who has Parkinson's disease. He drives from Salisbury to Archdale three times a week because Rock Steady Boxing works.
“You can sit down and complain about it and wish you didn't have it and all that you have a problem. So my philosophy is don't sit down, don't give up, find you people to work with and stay with it.” Poteat said.
Jeff Farlow runs the program. He went to Indianapolis last year to get certified in Rock Steady to help a family friend who was diagnosed.
“Unfortunately the world labels them as a disease or their situation. When my boxers step into this room, I treat them like boxers and nothing less than that and I think they like it,” Farlow said.
There are now close to 400 Rock Steady programs nationwide. Cindy Shaver's husband Ben has Parkinson's. She was so impressed with Rock Steady, she became certified to not only help her husband, but others too
“It has helped us because it has given us hope. Given us a way to maintain energy and strength and reason and purpose and a lot of things have happened good for my husband because of the program,” Shaver said.
“They are getting back some things that basically Parkinson's has stolen from them and that's a bit of their dignity, a bit of their hope, and that's why a part of our chant is, 'We've got hope in our corner.'" Farlow said.
What's the old line, "Move it or lose it!" That is the case with Parkinson's, so to fight off the symptoms, the members of the classes, which is pushing 20, continues to move as best they can.
“It just helps your brain learn these skills that after a while come second nature so that's the beauty,” Tom Coolidge said.
“Since he got started with the boxing there has been a good maintenance. It's like we don't lose ground. This is one program that offers hope for a Parkinson's patient for the long haul,” Shaver said.
The group is made up of men and women.
“We've got a lot of women in here who are grandmothers and they love to tell their grandkids and their children that they're boxers now. You're in your 60s or in your 70s and you have Parkinson's and you are telling me you are boxing and with joy and with fire in their eyes. They are proud of what they are doing,” Farlow said.
There is a strong sense of community within the program. They draw strength from their shared experiences and their strong desire to beat this common enemy.