Debbie Bentz



I have what?
Parkinson’s disease?
No way!

I went to the doctor’s office expecting to be told I had Carpel Tunnel, not Parkinson’s disease. What a shock! So many questions, so many thoughts, so many emotions. My head was spinning. I was scared and confused. I always thought Parkinson’s was an old person’s disease, not something that could strike a seemingly healthy 46 year-old woman.

How was this going to change my life? At the time, I was going through a divorce. My mind raced with questions: Would I be able to handle this by myself? Will I ever be able to date again? Would anyone want me? How long will it be before I get really bad? Will I still be able to work? How am I going to tell my parents their “young” daughter has Parkinson’s?

When I share with people that I have Parkinson’s they invariably say they can’t tell. But I can tell … every day, every minute of my life. I wake up feeling it and at night when my head hits the pillow I feel it. Most people take everyday tasks for granted, as I perhaps did myself, but I don’t anymore. I’m aware every morning how much time and effort it takes just to get ready for work.

My right side is my slow side, so it can be a challenge to use it sometimes, the other option being, use my left hand. Experiment with it for just one day. Use your non-dominant side and it may give you a slight idea what it’s like. Tasks that are second nature to most people can be burdensome when living with Parkinson’s. Taking a shower, blow-drying and curling your hair, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, buttoning your buttons, putting in contacts lenses (which I don’t even do now), and putting on make-up.

These everyday things take a lot of effort which ends up leaving me tired and exhausted. Remember all the times you’ve had to rush to get ready for something? With Parkinson’s, rushing is never an option. Rushing generally slows me down even more. Then there’s the drive to work, and the tasks we all do after work – typing, writing and even thinking. The thought process is sometimes lacking.

Trying to converse with others sometimes is difficult. Sometimes the words just don’t come fast enough or they can’t hear you because your voice is too soft. In the evenings when it’s time to fix dinner, it’s hard to stir things, it’s hard to take things out of the oven. It’s hard to cut food with a knife.

It’s now been eight years since I was diagnosed and Parkinson’s has not progressed as fast as my doctor predicted. Three years ago I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. Most people would have a hard time with what I went through. But, it wasn’t so bad because breast cancer usually goes away, Parkinson’s doesn’t.

Even though there are millions of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s, sometimes you feel all alone. Rock Steady has truly been a blessing. I have met some of the most wonderful people, both fellow boxers and staff. I can go to the gym and not feel so alone. I know everyone else there have had the same challenges I have and they can relate to my situation. If I don’t go for a week or two, I can feel a difference.

What do I know for sure? Rock Steady Boxing has contributed to slowing the progression of my Parkinson’s symptoms and has taught me invaluable skills – physical and emotional – to fight back.