Parkinson’s patients fight disease at boxing club

Participants enjoy the health benefits of boxing at Rock Steady Boxing in Indianapolis. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — “Some days I wake up in the morning and I feel so good it scares me,” Bob Pychinka said.

Those are the days that keep Bob going. But like his peers at Rock Steady Boxing, some days feel like an uphill battle.

“What’s so frustrating is when I’m in here doing these exercises, I don’t even know I have Parkinson’s,” Pychinka said.

Each and every boxer that steps foot in that gym has Parkinson’s disease — a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. Symptoms include tremors, loss of balance and impaired speech. The cause of this disease remains unknown.

“You’ve got to decide one thing: Are you going to fight? Do you have the will to fight? And I sure did, I had the will to fight,” Bart Austin said.

What better way to fight a disease through a sport known for fighting?

“It’s not just how hard you can hit a heavy bag, there’s a lot of balance that’s involved, there’s a lot of hand-eye coordination. Agility, speed of thought … all of these things are issues for people with Parkinson’s disease,” Kristy Rose Follmar said.

A lot of times when you go to boxing classes, instructors will tell you to put a face on the bag. When these boxers come to Rock Steady, that face is Parkinson’s.

“We don’t get as angry as we should about having this,” Pychinka said. “Not only should we fight back, we should conquer. This isn’t about putting up a wall, it’s about overcoming.”

Overcoming obstacles becomes easier when you can find strength in numbers. The sense of community found at Rock Steady has an even greater impact on the mental health of its boxers.

“Everybody here knows not to quit. We all get depressed. I have to worry about going out in public and having your hand twitching. All of those things build up inside of you and you want to get them over with and you want to conquer them,” Pychinka said. “Some people just want to resist them. I’m not a resister, I’m a conqueror!

Conquering Parkinson’s disease, one hit at a time.